Local News, Information, and the Nationalization of U.S. Elections

Local News, Information, and the Nationalization of U.S. Elections

By Daniel J. Moskowitz, University of Chicago

Has the decline in traditional sources of local news contributed to the nationalization of U.S. elections? I hypothesize that local news coverage mitigates nationalization by providing voters with information that allows them to assess down-ballot candidates separately from their national, partisan assessment. The geography of media markets places some voters in a neighboring state’s market and others in in-state markets. I demonstrate that residents of in-state markets have access to vastly more local television news coverage of their governor and U.S. senators, and this increased coverage translates into greater knowledge of these officeholders. Further, access to in-state television news substantially increases split-ticket voting in gubernatorial and senatorial races. Supplementary analyses provide strong evidence that the estimated effects are not the result of unobserved differences between residents of in-state and out-of-state media markets. These results imply that local news coverage attenuates the nationalization of elections even in the present polarized context.