Do Newspaper Endorsements Still Matter?


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Do newspaper endorsements help presidential candidates? In recent years, some newspapers have abandoned endorsement. USA Today and The Wall Street Journal do not make such endorsements

Tim Porter in a recent edition of the American Journalism Review says there is not much research on the subject. In a recent article, he quotes, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, who wrote about newspaper endorsements in her 2000 book, Everything You Think You Know About Politics and Why You're Wrong.

"The direct effect of editorials does not appear to be significant enough to find," Jamieson said in an interview. "The effect of newspaper endorsements is largely created through advertising about them that is sponsored by the candidate."

More recently, a Pew Center for the People & the Press study released in January, which measured media influences on voters, concluded that "newspaper endorsements are also less influential than four years ago, and dissuade as many Americans as they persuade."

Editor & Publisher magazine found that 70 percent of papers (and 96 percent with circulations of 200,000 or more) that responded to a survey were likely to make a presidential endorsement.

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, wrote “When you go to the polls Tuesday, your vote should be as personal as it is precious. Don't let anyone tell you how to mark your ballot.

‘As a newspaper reader, you especially need to keep your guard up. Many newspaper editors and owners still cling to the old-fashioned idea that they know better than you how you should vote.

“In the olden days, many newspapers carried a political party label.

“Now most call themselves independent, although some of their consistently partisan editorials belie that.

”Enlightened newspaper editors and owners have come to understand that when they endorse a political candidate their news coverage becomes suspect in the eyes of readers, even though most reporters are basically fair and accurate.

“When USA Today was founded in 1982, we decided our role was to inform, educate, entertain, debate, but not dictate. 

“If decision-makers at newspapers quit trying to be kingmakers, they and their readers would benefit.”

Recently, The Washington Post reports that “Top endorsements for Obama include the Tampa Bay Times, The Denver Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Philadelphia Inquirer, while Romney has gotten the support of the Orlando Sentinel, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Columbus Dispatch.”

* Newspaper endorsements are not the be-all, end-all of campaigns…But candidates and campaigns do spend time trying to earn these endorsements, and we have to believe that some of them matter to some voters.

* Editorial boards tend to endorse more Democrats than Republicans, and they definitely did that in 2008. 

 

Greg Mitchell of The Nation writes, ”The largest of the papers, the Los AngelesTimes, went for Obama on Sunday, but California voters—in our ridiculous and undemocratic Electoral College system—hardly matter in this race. In Arizona, where Obama has at least some shot now: Arizona Republic for Romney, but Arizona Daily Star for Obama. In still-tight North Carolina: Charlotte Observer for Obama, and also the smaller paper in Asheville.

Read more:

"What's the Point?" by Tim Porter at ajr.org.

"Should newspapers endorse candidates?" by Al Neuharth at usatoday.com.

"Obama Gains Key Newspaper Endorsements, but Polls Are Mixed," by Greg Mitchell at thenation.com.

"The newspaper endorsement battle — in one chart," Aaron Blake at washingtonpost.com

You can follow endorsements at Atlanticwire.com's Presidential Endorsement Tracker.

Visit your local library for more resources on this topic.

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