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Does the Media Matter? A Field Experiment Measuring the Effect of Newspapers on Voting Behavior and Political Opinions

By Alan S. Gerber, Dean Karlan and Daniel Bergan

Abstract

We conducted a field experiment to measure the effect of exposure to newspapers on political behavior and opinion. Before the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial election, we randomly assigned individuals to a Washington Post free subscription treatment, a Washington Times free subscription treatment, or a control treatment. We find no effect of either paper on political knowledge, stated opinions, or turnout in post-election survey and voter data. However, receiving either paper led to more support for the Democratic candidate, suggesting that media slant mattered less in this case than media exposure. Some evidence from voting records also suggests that receiving either paper led to increased 2006 voter turnout. (JEL D72, L82)

DOI identifier: 10.1257/app.1.2.35
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