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News Consumption and Economic Voting: Does News Media Exposure Facilitate Economic Voting?
The Korean Journal of International Studies 15-1 (April 2017), 103-29
Published online April 30, 2017
© 2017 The Korean Association of International Studies.

Han Soo Lee [Bio-Data]
Received February 6, 2017; Revised March 15, 2017; Accepted March 22, 2017.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Abstract
Voters attribute responsibility for national and/or personal economic conditions to incumbent candidates when they cast ballots. In particular, this paper explores what factors condition economic voting and argues that news consumption positively conditions sociotropic voting. That is, voters who more frequently read newspapers and/or watch TV news tend to vote for candidates according to their sociotropic evaluations. In order to test the hypothesis, this research analyzes individual vote choice in the 2004 and 2012 U.S. presidential elections. The regression results show that the marginal effects of voters’ sociotropic evaluations on vote choice significantly increase as they more frequently expose themselves to television news. However, news media exposure does not condition pocketbook voting.
Keywords : economic voting, sociotropic voting, pocketbook voting, media exposure, media effects, campaign effects, political communication
INTRODUCTION

Scholars have argued that economic conditions can affect vote choice and election results (Duch and Stevenson 2008; Kramer 1971; Lewis-Beck 1988). The basic idea of economic voting is that voters attribute responsibility for economic conditions to incumbent candidates or parties. If economic conditions indicate prosperity, voters tend to vote for incumbent candidates. During economic downturns, voters are more likely to blame incumbent candidates and cast ballots for challengers. Furthermore, while voting for candidates, some consider their personal economic conditions (“pocketbook voting”) while others rely on their evaluations of the national economy (“sociotropic voting”).


Who then is more likely to rely on his or her evaluation of the national economy when voting for candidates? Who tends to cast ballots according to individual pocketbook conditions? One of the main arguments in this study is that news consumption influences economic voting. I assume that news consumption can affect voters’ perceptions of government responsibility for economic conditions. Almost all voters want economic prosperity. However, not all voters perceive that government is responsible for (national/personal) economic conditions. Powell and Whitten (1993) revealed that the clarity of government responsibility conditioned economic voting. In addition, consuming news can change the standards of candidate evaluations of voters (Iyengar and Kinder 1987).


Some voters may believe that government policies significantly affect economic conditions. In contrast, others may think that government cannot manage economic conditions generally. If voters believe that government is responsible for economic conditions, their evaluation of the national economy will play an important role in deciding vote choice. In contrast, voters who think that government is not responsible for economic conditions are less likely to vote for candidates according to their economic evaluations. Abramowitz, Lanoue, and Ramesh (1988) argued that economic voting was observed among voters who believed that government or society was responsible for economic conditions. Then, who is more likely to perceive that government is responsible for economic conditions and vote for candidates based on his or her personal or national economic evaluations?


One group of scholars (Abramowitz, Lanoue and Ramesh 1988; Gomez and Wilson 2001) has contended that cognitive heterogeneity produces heterogeneity in economic voting. According to Gomez and Wilson (2001; 2007), politically knowledgeable citizens tend to vote for candidates according to their pocketbook evaluations. In contrast, voters who are less politically knowledgeable are more likely to rely on their assessments of national economic conditions. Gomez and Wilson (2001) insist that politically knowledgeable voters tend to better understand the connections between government policies and their pocketbook conditions. However, those less politically knowledgeable voters do not have enough cognitive ability (or political information) to fully understand the connections. Hence, they tend to vote for candidates according to their evaluation of the national economy because it is easier to connect government policies to national economic conditions than to personal economic conditions (Gomez and Wilson 2001).


However, other researchers (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Fiorina 1981; Goren 1997; Mutz 1992) have argued that the less politically sophisticated vote their pocketbook conditions while those who are more politically sophisticated voted based on the condition of the national economy. According to those scholars, politically sophisticated voters understand that government policies are designed for the national economy rather than individual pocketbook conditions. Godbout and Belanger (2007) found that the politically sophisticated voted for presidential candidates according to their assessments of national economic situations. In sum, according to prior research (Fiorina 1981; Godbout and Belanger 2007; Gomez and Wilson 2001), the conditional effects of political sophistication on economic voting are inconsequential, which means that political sophistication is not a key variable conditioning economic voting.1


Unlike arguments favoring cognitive heterogeneity, Mutz (1992, 483) argued that “high levels of media exposure to economic news prime the importance of collective perceptions to political evaluations and decrease the importance of personal concerns.” In other words, media exposure can condition economic voting. Using recent data and methods, this study revisits this argument. In particular, I contend that heavy media users tend to vote for candidates according to their sociotropic evaluations. However, the influence of media exposure on pocketbook voting is minimal.


News coverage can stress government responsibility for national economic conditions, especially during electoral campaigns (Iyengar and Kinder 1987). Also, news coverage can influence “the weights that individuals assign to their opinions on particular issues when they make summary political evaluations, such as which candidate deserves their vote” (Iyengar and McGrady 2007, 215). In other words, media attention to the national economy itself can affect economic voting. In sum, news consumption is associated with perceiving the clarity of responsibility and the importance of economic issues, which eventually can condition economic voting. The following section discusses this argument in greater detail.

ECONOMIC NEWS AND VOTING

Prior research (Bartels 1993; Beck et al. 2002; Kahn and Kenney 2002) has revealed that the news media can affect vote choice. Furthermore, Hillygus and Jackman (2003) argued that campaign effects were prominent among mismatched partisans, independents, and undecided voters. The authors found that campaign effects varied across individuals. Like other campaign effects, patterns of economic voting can vary across individuals. In particular, I consider news consumption as a conditional variable for economic voting. Certainly, news consumption matters for political behavior (Iyengar and Kinder 1987).


The news media play a key role in transmitting political information to voters (Graber 2010). While consuming news during electoral campaigns, voters can learn about campaign issues and the policy positions of candidates. Even though the strategic and ‘horse-race’ aspects of campaigns are covered frequently during elections, voters also perceive candidates’ personal traits and policy stances through the news media (Iyengar, Luskin, and Fishkin 2004). For example, voters’ familiarity with John Kerry and John Edwards, both of whom were vying to lead the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, increased by more than 10 percent between December 2003 and February 2004 (Iyengar and McGrady 2007). Buchanan (1991), studying the 1988 presidential campaign, also showed similar statistical increases in candidate recognition.


Furthermore, voters can come to recognize the relationship between government policies and economic conditions while consuming news. The news media often clarify and/or frame government responsibility for national economic situations (Chong and Druckman 2007; Mutz 1994). Candidates also talk about the national economy and their remedies for economic problems. In particular, challengers stress government responsibility for past and present economic problems. For instance, during the 2004 presidential election, Kerry often accused incumbent George W. Bush of responsibility for the condition of the national economy, and the news media reported his accusations. The following is part of a news story from The New York Times on October 9, 2004:


Kerry seized on the fact that the U.S. economy had lost 585,000 jobs since the president took office in 2001 as evidence that his economic policies were a failure. “President Bush will be the first president in 72 years to face the electorate with an economy that has lost jobs under his watch,” Kerry said. “Even over the last year, our economy has failed to create even enough jobs to cover new workers coming into the job market, not to speak of the millions who are unemployed, working in part-time or temporary jobs or who have given up or dropped out,” he said.


This news story shows that Kerry’s accusations stressed presidential responsibility for the then-current economic problems facing the country. Certainly, during economic upturns, incumbent candidates try to take credit for good economic performance by connecting their economic policies to prosperous economic conditions. If voters frequently consume news during campaigns, they can regularly and easily find similar news stories.


The news media not only report presidential candidates’ messages but also manufacture news about the national economy. The news media analyze economic policies and national economic conditions. On April 29, 2012, for instance, This Week on the American Broadcasting Company, or ABC, one of the ‘Big Three’ national television networks, dealt with current national economic conditions. On the news show, a panel of experts talked about the national economy. The panelists discussed how public policies affected current national economic conditions. News stories that cover national economic policies and conditions have been common during elections.2 In the 2008 election, for instance, about 18 percent of the campaign news coverage dealt with the national economy and the financial crisis, which were the most covered issues at that time (Pew 2008).


Even though new stories do not necessarily stress government responsibility for economic conditions, news consumption itself can affect economic voting. Candidates and the news media can affect voters’ decisions by changing the criteria that citizens use to evaluate candidates (Iyengar and Kinder 1987). That is, if the news media generally focus on national economic situations when reporting the news, voters tend to think that the national economy is a more important issue. Eventually, voters will be more likely to rely on their evaluation of the national economy—what the media covers more extensively—when voting for candidates.


NEWS CONSUMPTION AND SOCIOTROPIC ECONOMIC VOTING

This study argues that news consumption distinctively affects sociotropic and pocketbook economic voting. In particular, news consumption positively conditions sociotropic voting because presidential candidates and the news media generally focus on national economic conditions during campaigns.

Bennett (2008), however, insists that the news media tend to personalize social problems. Economic problems, such as poverty, can be personalized in news stories. In other words, the news media can frame economic problems as individual issues. Experimental studies (Nelson, Clawson, and Oxley 1997; Tversky and Kahneman 1981) have shown that framing significantly affects human behavior.3 How the news media cover economic conditions can affect voters’ perceptions of economic conditions (Hetherington 1996). If economic news stories have a personalization bias, news consumers are less likely to perceive economic problems as social problems. Then, voters who are exposed to economic news stories are less likely to rely on their assessments of national economic conditions when they evaluate candidates.


While the news media can personalize economic conditions, they tend to focus on the national economy, at least during electoral campaigns. In fact, the “media’s role in promoting problems to the status of social and political issues is well documented” (Mutz 1994, 690). Hence, it should not be an odd assumption that the news media generally cover national economic conditions during presidential elections. Elections are designed to select national leaders who will deal with national issues, including the state of the national economy.


Besides the news media, presidential candidates also focus on the national economy to gain public support. Certainly, economic policies can affect the pocketbook conditions of individuals. However, focusing on the public rather than individuals is a more efficient strategy for candidates. No economic policy can satisfy everyone, although all voters generally want the national economy to grow. Also, it is useful to note that the messages of presidential candidates generally are transmitted to voters through the news media.4


Not only do the news media and presidential candidates focus on national economic conditions, but also voters pay attention to economic news during campaigns. In fact, what the public most wants to know from the news media is the state of the national economy (Pew 2009), but that does not mean that all voters consume the same amount of news. Some voters read newspapers and/or watch TV news more frequently than others. According to survey results produced by the American National Election Studies (ANES), the level of news media exposure varies across respondents, which is detailed in the following section.


If the news media generally cover national economic conditions during campaigns, heavy media users are more likely to rely on their assessments of the national economy when they vote for candidates. In addition, I assume that voters tend to perceive government responsibility for past and current economic conditions as they consume more news during campaigns. Based on these assumptions, this study hypothesizes that the effects of sociotropic evaluations on vote choice become greater as voters more frequently expose themselves to news media content.


The conditional effects of news consumption on pocketbook voting, however, tend to be minimal. Even though economic news stories during campaigns generally are about national economic conditions, this does not necessarily mean that media exposure negatively influences pocketbook voting. Stressing national economic conditions does not necessarily equal out to the depreciation of personal economic conditions. Hence, the amount of news consumption does not affect pocketbook voting. According to prior research (Kinder and Kiewiet 1979; Lewis- Beck and Paldam 2000), sociotropic voting and pocketbook voting are distinctive but not mutually exclusive. In fact, in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, both sociotropic voting and egocentric voting were observed significantly.5


Several scholars (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Weatherford 1983) have argued that pocketbook voting was more prominent among citizens who did not have enough information about national economic conditions. Accordingly, voters who did not consume news tended to have less information about the national economy and voted for candidates according to their pocketbook conditions. However, as mentioned previously, dissemination of information about the national economy in general is more common during campaigns. Citizens who do not read and watch news stories frequently can get enough information about national economic conditions from multiple sources. In sum, news consumption is not a critical variable conditioning pocketbook voting.

STUDY DESIGN

This study tests the hypotheses by analyzing individual vote choice in the 2004 and 2012 American presidential elections, which are the two most recent incumbent elections. Certainly, campaign issues were somewhat distinctive in each election. For instance, compared to the 2004 election, the economy was a more important issue in the 2012 election, which could have had an effect on voting behavior. However, this did not mean that economic voting was absent in the 2004 election.6 Economic voting is likely to be observed when incumbent candidates run for reelection because of the clarity of responsibility (Powell and Whitten 1993). Accordingly, the conditional effects of news consumption on economic voting tend to be prominent in incumbent elections.7 President Bush was the Republican incumbent candidate in 2004, and President Obama was the Democratic incumbent candidate in 2012.


VARIABLES

This study investigates economic voting by analyzing the ANES survey data in 2004 and 2012. The dependent variable in the following analyses is individual vote choice. Because economic voting is about attributing responsibility for economic conditions to government (the president), vote choice is treated as a dichotomous variable. Vote choice is measured as voting intention because voters tend to over-report that they have voted for the winner after elections (Atkeson 1999; Wright 1993). If a respondent intends to vote for the incumbent candidate, he or she is coded as 1, otherwise 0.


As mentioned previously, the main independent variables are sociotropic and pocketbook economic evaluations. Measuring economic evaluations, I focus on retrospection because economic voting, in theory, is based on government accountability (Lewis-Beck and Nadeau 2011). The ANES asks respondents to evaluate changes in their personal economic conditions and the national economy retrospectively. Pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations are classified into five categories, and this study codes them orderly (much better = 4, …, much worse = 0). According to economic voting theory, the economic evaluation variables positively affect the dependent variable.8


News consumption is a conditional variable in this study. Because there is no direct measure of news consumption, news consumption is treated as media exposure. Hence, news consumption is measured as the frequency of reading newspapers and watching national TV news programs per week. According to the 2012 survey results, TV and newspapers are the most used media sources for news. About 85 percent of survey respondents watched national TV news at least once a week. In the case of newspapers, it was about 61 percent. Newspaper and TV news consumption are separately coded since different types of news media can result in distinctive media effects (Beaudoin and Thorson 2004; Mondak 1995; Shah, Kwak, and Holbert 2001).


Prior research (Iyengar 1991) indicates that TV news is more episodic and event oriented. In general, television news has less room to put economic problems into a social context. In contrast, the ‘newshole’ of newspapers is generally large enough to carry more information and contextualize economic problems. Heavy consumers of newspapers tend to vote for candidates according to their sociotropic evaluations, according to this reasoning. In contrast, the conditional effects of media use are less prominent among television news viewers.

Patterns of news media exposure vary across voters. For instance, according to the 2012 and 2004 survey results, about 22 and 31 percent of the respondents, respectively, never read newspapers or watched TV news for a week. In contrast, about 30 percent of voters in 2012 and 28 percent in 2004 read newspapers or watch TV news every day of the week. These frequencies are somewhat uniformly distributed across different categories. Measuring media exposure by utilizing survey data may have some limitations, such as over-reporting.9 Unfortunately, there are few other options to measuring news consumption when we analyze the survey data.


Beyond the main variables, this study includes multiple control variables drawing on prior research (Gomez and Wilson 2001; Lewis-Beck and Nadeau 2011). In order to control for the effects of issue voting, this study measures the relative distance between voters’ and candidates’ issue positions as perceived by voters. Based on prior research (Godbout and Belanger 2007; Gomez and Wilson 2001), three issues (social spending, defense spending, and racial issue) are selected. The issue voting literature shows that distance is negatively related to the dependent variable (Enelow and Hinich 1984).10 If voters perceive that the issue positions of incumbent candidates are further from their issue positions than the issue positions of challengers, those voters are less likely to vote for incumbents.


The ANES asks respondents about their issue positions (ranging from 1 to 7) and their perceptions of the issue positions of candidates (ranging from 1 to 7). The issue position variables are measured by calculating the difference in the absolute distances between voters’ issue positions and their perceptions of the issue positions of incumbent candidates, and between voters’ issue positions and their perceptions of the issue positions of major challengers: Issue Position Differencei = |Voter’s Issue Positioni - Incumbent Candidate’s Issue Positioni| - |Voter’s Issue Positioni – Challenger’s Issue Positioni|. As the difference increases, citizens are less likely to vote for incumbent candidates.


Previous voting studies (Gomez and Wilson 2001; Lewis-Beck and Nadeau 2011) also generally included partisanship, ideology, demographics, and socioeconomic variables. In this study, party identification and ideology are measured by using a seven-point summary scale.11 For demographic variables, age, race, gender, and region are included.12 Education and family income are included as socioeconomic variables.13


MODELS AND METHODS

Since the dependent variable in this study is dichotomous (a dummy variable), a probit regression model is used to test the hypotheses. In order to examine conditional effects, interaction models are used. By including interactions between the main independent variables and conditional variables in econometric models, we can examine the conditional effects. Previous research that has examined the conditional effects on economic voting often divides observations into different groups according to a conditional variable (Godbout and Belanger 2007; Gomez and Wilson 2001; Mutz 1994). However, this tends to produce biased results because dividing observations into different groups according to a conditional variable means that all other variables are interacted with the conditional variable (Brambor, Clark, and Golder 2006).


This study investigates whether or not news consumption conditions economic voting. Hence, the following econometric models include two interaction variables: the interactions between the economic evaluation variables and the media exposure variables of TV or newspapers. The interactions are modeled thus:


Vote Choicei= β0+ β1Sociotropic Evaluationi+ β2Pocketbook Evaluationi3Media Exposurei13Sociotropic Evaluation*Media Exposurei23Pocketbook Evaluation*Media ExposureijControl Variablesii.


The news media exposure variables can be interacted with the economic evaluation variables and included in one model. However, theoretically, they are not expected to affect economic voting independently. In fact, when these variables are included in the baseline model, they do not significantly influence the dependent variable independently. Therefore, the TV and newspaper exposure variables are separately interacted with the economic evaluation variables. Furthermore, the main results in the following section are not altered by including multiple interaction variables in the model.


Since interaction effects are difficult to comprehend only by reading the probit regression coefficients, I graphically show the conditional effects of the news consumption variables. The marginal effects of the sociotropic evaluation variable are (β1 + β13TV News Consumption)Φ’(·),14 which is to say the marginal effects of sociotropic evaluations on vote choice depend on the level of TV news consumption. Also, note that we often “cannot even infer whether X has a meaningful conditional effect on Y from the magnitude and significance of the coefficient on the interaction term either” (Brambor, Clark, and Golder 2006, 74).

Technically, we assume a probit model: E[y|x1, x2, X] = Φ(β1x1 + β2x2 + β12x1*x2 + Xβ) = Φ(·). The interaction effect is 2Φ(·)/∂x1∂x2 = β12Φ’(·)+(β112x2)(β212x1) Φ’’(·). Certainly, the interaction effects are not just β12. Even when β12 is equal to zero, the effects are β1 β2Φ’’(·). This implies that even though β12 is not statistically significant, it does not necessarily mean that there is no interaction effect. Brambor, Clark, and Golder (2006) suggested statistical simulation methods and graphical presentations when reporting interaction effects based on regression results.15 Also, note that interaction effects are expressed as marginal effects in this study. The following section presents the regression and simulation results.


RESULTS

Table 1 reports the probit regression results that do not include any interaction variables. The results show how citizens evaluate presidential candidates. Because probit regression coefficients cannot be directly interpreted as the effects of the independent variables on the dependent variable, this study reports the marginal effects of the independent variables on the dependent variable. Also, the probability changes of voting for incumbent candidates when the values of independent variables change from the minimum to the maximum are reported in Table 1.16


According to the regression results in Table 1, economic voting is observed in the 2004 and 2012 elections. In particular, sociotropic evaluations significantly affected vote choice in those elections. In other words, citizens who positively evaluated national economic conditions tended to vote for incumbent candidates in 2004 and 2012. For instance, voters who most positively evaluated the national economy were about 64 percent more likely to vote for Obama than voters who most negatively evaluated national economic conditions in the 2012 election. The probability change was about 41 percent in 2004.


Unlike sociotropic voting, pocketbook voting was not observed in the elections. If we set the statistical significance level at .10, the pocketbook evaluation variable is significant in the 2012 election.17 According to the results, voters who most positively evaluated their personal economic conditions were about 13 percent more likely to vote for Obama than citizens who most negatively evaluated their pocketbook conditions in 2012.


As introduced previously, multiple control variables are included in the models. Most of the control variables show expected signs and statistical significance in Table 1. According to the regression results, partisanship, ideology, and issue perceptions significantly explain vote choice. The results in the table are comparable with prior research (Gomez and Wilson 2001; Lewis- Beck and Nadeau 2011), which implies that the baseline model is valid and reliable.


NEWS MEDIA EXPOSURE AND SOCIOTROPIC VOTING

This study argues that news consumption positively conditions sociotropic voting. In other words, voters who more frequently watch and read news are more likely to vote for candidates according to their evaluations of the national economy. Newspaper and TV news consumption may condition economic voting in different ways; therefore, both media exposure variables are interacted separately with the economic evaluation variables. Table 2 reports the probit regression results from the interaction models. As with the regression results in Table 1, most of the control variables show expected signs and statistical significance in the table.


The interaction variable between the sociotropic variable and the TV news exposure variable shows statistical significance in Table 2. Besides this interaction variable, the other interaction variables are statistically insignificant. However, as mentioned previously, this does not necessarily mean that news media exposure does not condition economic voting. In order to correctly examine the conditional effects of news consumption on economic voting, I use statistical simulations and present them graphically (Brambor, Clark and Golder 2006).


Figure 1 shows the marginal effects of sociotropic evaluations on vote choice dependent on changes in television news exposure. The figure includes two panels reporting the results from the 2012 and 2004 elections. In each panel, the x-axis represents the level of TV news exposure (from 0 to 7), and the y-axis denotes the marginal effects of sociotropic evaluations on vote choice. The solid line in each panel represents the conditional effects of television news exposure on sociotropic economic voting. The dotted lines show the 95% confidence interval of the effects.


According to the simulation results in the top panel in Figure 1, the marginal effects of sociotropic evaluations on vote choice increase as the level of television news exposure increases. For instance, the marginal effects of sociotropic evaluations on vote choice are about .1 among citizens who watch TV news once a week. In contrast, the effects increase about twofold when voters watched national TV news six times a week. In other words, in the 2012 presidential election, heavy television news users tended to rely more on their assessments of national economic conditions when they voted for candidates.


The bottom panel in Figure 1 also showed that TV news consumption tended to condition sociotropic voting in a positive manner in the 2004 presidential election. According to the simulation results, the marginal effects are not statistically significant when the level of television news exposure is below three. Voters who watched national TV news fewer than three times a week did not seriously consider their sociotropic evaluations when they casted ballots in the 2004 election. However, when citizens watched television news more than three times a week, they tended to vote for candidates according to their sociotropic evaluations. The marginal effects are about .2 when the level of TV news exposure is seven. The results support the main argument of this study that media exposure positively conditions sociotropic economic voting.


Previous studies (Beaudoin and Thorson 2004; Druckman 2003) have suggested that different types of news media result in distinctive media effects. Hence, this study measures news consumption as newspaper and television news exposures. Figure 2 shows the conditional effects of newspaper exposure on sociotropic voting. Unlike the previous figure, the results from the 2012 and 2004 elections are different.


The top panel in Figure 2 reports the marginal effects of sociotropic evaluations on vote choice in 2012. The effects are statistically significant and tend to decrease as the level of newspaper exposure increases. The results imply that voters who frequently read newspapers tend to rely less on their evaluations of the national economy when they vote for candidates. However, this pattern was not observed in the 2004 election.


According to the bottom panel in Figure 2, the marginal effects are significant among voters who read newspapers two to four times a week. However, unlike the top panel in the figure, the effects tend to increase as the level of newspaper exposure increases, even though the slope was gentle. According to the results in the figure, newspaper exposure seemed to affect sociotropic voting in 2004. However, it is difficult to assert whether reading newspapers positively or negatively conditions sociotropic voting based on the results in the figure.


The results in Figure 1 and Figure 2 imply that different types of media can produce distinctive media effects. Generally speaking, newspapers carry more interpretive information to consumers than TV news (Iyengar 1991). In other words, compared to television news, newspapers have more space to frame national economic conditions either as national problems or personal matters. Furthermore, through op-ed pages, newspapers often directly attribute responsibility for economic problems based on partisan preferences. If differences between newspaper and TV news are present, newspaper news consumers will show more complex results regarding sociotropic voting.


NEWS CONSUMPTION AND POCKETBOOK VOTING

This study argues that, unlike sociotropic voting, the conditional effects of media exposure on pocketbook voting are minimal or absent. Figure 3 illustrates the conditional effects of TV news exposure on pocketbook economic voting. The top panel in the figure shows that the marginal effects of pocketbook evaluations tend to increase as the level of television news exposure increases. However, the effects are statistically insignificant. In other words, watching TV news did not significantly influence pocketbook voting in the 2012 election. Similar patterns were observed in the 2004 election. In sum, the simulation results in the figure show that TV news exposure does not condition pocketbook voting.


Figure 3 reports the conditional effects of newspaper exposure on pocketbook voting. The results in this figure are similar to the results in the previous figures. According to the results in the top panel, the marginal effects of pocketbook evaluations increase as the level of newspaper news consumption increases. However, the effects are insignificant regardless of the level of newspaper exposure. The bottom panel shows that the marginal effects of pocketbook evaluations do not change according to the level of newspaper exposure. In addition, the effects are statistically insignificant.


As with the 2012 election, in sum, reading newspapers did not condition the effects of pocketbook evaluations on vote choice in the 2004 election. The results in Figure 3 and Figure 4 support the argument that news media exposure is not a critical variable explaining pocketbook economic voting. The simulation results are somewhat comparable with the results produced by Mutz (1994). She found that the effects of personal concerns on presidential evaluations did not vary according to the level of media use in general.


CONCLUSION

One of the main purposes of this study is to examine the conditional effects of media use on economic voting. I argue that news consumption significantly affects sociotropic economic voting but not pocketbook voting. During electoral campaigns, presidential candidates and the news media generally focus on national economic conditions and the connections between government policies and those national economic conditions. If voters frequently consume news, they are more likely to perceive government responsibility for the national economy and cast their ballots according to their sociotropic evaluations.


The statistical simulation results in this study support the argument, at least in part. According to the regression results, voters who more frequently exposed themselves to television news tend to vote for candidates according to their sociotropic evaluations. The findings imply that the effects of the news media and electoral campaigns vary across individuals (Hillygus and Jackman 2003; Iyengar and Kinder 1987). Prior research (Mutz 1994; Weatherford 1983) has revealed that the news media condition political evaluations, which is consistent with the empirical evidence in this study.


However, unlike the effects of TV news, the effects of newspaper exposure on sociotropic voting are inconsistent across elections. These results are somewhat unexpected. Prior research (Graber 2010; Iyengar 1991) has argued that print media generally provide more interpretive information than electronic media. This implies that print media have more room to frame news. The empirical results do not provide evidence that heavy newspaper consumers are consistently more or less sociotropic than lighter users.


If newspapers tend to interpret economic issues in general, how newspapers cover economic issues will matter for sociotropic voting. While covering economic conditions, newspapers can focus more on the responsibility of government for the national economy. In contrast, newspapers can downplay the connections between economic policies and national economic conditions. Then, the effects of news consumption on sociotropic voting may vary across elections. Compared to newspapers, TV news more directly covers national economic conditions. News of the national economy itself can prime a certain standard of evaluating candidates, which can facilitate sociotropic voting. Hence, the effects of television news exposure on sociotropic voting may show more consistent patterns across elections.


It may be suggested that the characteristics of news consumers can explain these mixed results. Newspaper readers may have different characteristics compared to TV news viewers. For instance, the level of political knowledge and education might vary systematically across these two groups. This study examined this possibility using the data and methods employed in the previous analyses. However, the results did not show significant and consistent conditional effects of political knowledge and education on economic voting. The results showed that media consumption, rather than other characteristics, was a critical variable conditioning sociotropic voting.


Unlike the effects of media use on sociotropic voting, this study contends that the effects of news consumption on pocketbook voting are absent, and the interaction results support this argument. According to Mutz (1994), pocketbook evaluations can affect presidential evaluations when voters expose themselves to the news media and the news media produce a lot of news about national economic conditions. The insignificant conditional effects of media exposure on pocketbook voting could have resulted from the amount of economic news disseminated during the elections.


However, the national economy was one of the major issues in both elections, and the regression results showed that voters cared about economic conditions. Rather than the amount of information voters received, the insignificant effects could be associated with the fact that the news media generally made news of the national economy during campaigns and tried to explain national economic conditions as the result of economic policies. Hence, news consumption did not significantly influence pocketbook economic voting.

Figures
Fig. 1. TV News Exposure and Sociotropic Voting
Fig. 2. Newspaper News Consumption and Sociotropic Voting
Fig. 3. TV News Consumption and Pocketbook Voting
Fig. 4. Newspaper News Consumption and Pocketbook Voting
Tables
Table. 1. Economic Voting in the 2012 and 2004 U.S. Presidential Elections
Table. 2. Media Exposure and Economic Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections
Footnotes
1)I attempt to replicate the effects of cognitive heterogeneity on economic voting using the data and methods in this study. The results were inconsistent and varied across different elections.
2)Whether or not the national economy is recovering may affect vote choice. However, this study focuses on what standards voters use when they vote for candidates and what factors influence the creation of those standards.
3)Not all citizens, however, are influenced by the news equally. For instance, when citizens discussed issues that have been framed by elites, the framing effects tended to be minimal (Druckman and Nelson 2003).
4)Even though it is perhaps obvious, this study briefly checks what economic news the news media produce during campaigns. First, news stories related to economic conditions were retrieved from The New York Times during the month before Election Day in 2004 by utilizing keyword searches in LexisNexis. “Economic” and “economy” were used as keywords, and about one thousand news articles were retrieved. More than 90 percent of relevant economic news stories directly dealt with national economic conditions. In the retrieved news stories, economic issues/conditions rarely were personalized. Certainly, this news search was limited; however, the pattern of covering economic conditions did not change dramatically across different media outlets or by adding more keywords or by extending the time period.
5)See Tables 1 and 2.
6)In fact, sociotropic voting was observed in the elections. Please see Tables 1 and 2.
7)The hypotheses also were tested using the 2008 ANES data. In the 2008 presidential election,was no incumbent candidate but an incumbent-party candidate, John McCain. The test results from the 2008 election are comparable with the main regression and simulation results in the following section, although the patterns are somewhat less clear. The results are presented in Appendix 1 through 4.
8)Several scholars (Evans and Andersen 2006; Wlezien, Franklin, and Twiggs 1997) indicate that voters can evaluate economic conditions according to their voting intentions. However, it is not yet certain if voting intention determines their standards of candidate evaluations.
9)Scholars such as Chaffee and Schleuder (1986) and Mutz (1994) suggest that attention and exposure measures should be considered separately according to media types. However, this approach may cause a comparability problem in this study.
10)Scholars such Rabinowitz and Macdonald (1989) argued that direction mattered more than proximity in terms of issue voting. However, Lewis and King (1999) showed that it was difficult to validate whether the direction theory or the proximity argument was empirically correct.
11)0=strong Democrat, …, 6=strong Republican. 0=extremely liberal, …, 6=extremely conservative.
12)White=1, otherwise 0. Male=1, Female=0. South=1, otherwise 0.
13)The education variable ranges from 0 (no high school diploma) to 6 (advanced degree). The family income variable is created by utilizing the family income questions in the ANES surveys.
14)Φ( ) is the standard normal cumulative distribution.
15)For more information on statistical simulation and presentation of the results, see Brambor, Clark, and Golder (2006). In the case of simulation, control variables are set at their mean values.
16)The other variables are set at their mean values when the effects are estimated.
17)These results could be associated with the fact that the economy was a more prominent issue in the 2012 election than in the 2004 election.
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15-1 (April 2017)