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The Media's Role in Declining Voter Turnout in
Presidential Elections, 1960-2004
[ Andrew Kaplan, U. of Maryland ]
AEJMC, Graduate Education Interest Group,
for 2006 National Conference
Length: 25 Pages (plus Abstract, Appendix, Endnotes, and Bibliography)
Voter turnout has declined precipitously in the past 45 years
for presidential elections, from about 73% of the non-South in 1960
(the South is not counted due to discriminatory practices) to 54% in
2000 and 60% in 2004. In 1996, nearly half the country did not vote.
For decades, scholars asserted that as education levels rose, voter
participation would also increase. Yet, it has sharply declined.
Scholars also claimed that as registration requirements became less
burdensome, turnout would increase, yet the opposite has happened. We
live in a time when no formal discriminatory practices exist, yet
turnout has never been lower. What could explain this? This thesis
argues that the mass media has come to supplant the traditional role
political parties once played in educating and mobilizing voters, yet
is not suited for the job. As many citizens have gradually disengaged
from political parties, the nation's de facto political party – the
mass media – has done a poor job informing citizens as to why
elections matter and what voters' options are. Instead, the press has
helped to increase public cynicism and instill low levels of trust in
government, which has kept voters home.
This paper addresses the question as to why voter turnout in the
United States has dropped precipitously since 1960. I will argue that
the main reason turnout has dropped is because in the past 45 years,
the mass media has come to supplant the traditional roles political
parties once played in informing and mobilizing voters. In essence,
the mass media has become the nation's de facto political party, yet
it is not suited to assume this new responsibility of voter education
and mobilization. On the contrary, the mass media's emergence in
shaping the political landscape has brought about a nation of largely
cynical voters who are turned off by elections, and have increasingly
decided not to exercise their right to vote.
Americans Are Not Voting and Why This Matters
The United States has been facing the problem of declining
voter turnout for over 45 years. In 1960, 73 % of eligible citizens
in the non-South voted in the presidential election. Since that time,
turnout for presidential elections has dropped dramatically until
1996, when the number of eligible American voters not voting (49%)
nearly equaled those who did (51%).1 The turnout rate improved in
2000 and 2004, (54% and 60% respectively)2 yet still lagged far
behind elections held a generation ago. Put a different way, about
100 million Americans are not exercising their right to decide the
country's future.3 The United States has the lowest voting turnout of
any industrialized country in the world except Switzerland. By
comparison, Italy had 87.4 % in their parliamentary election in 1996
while Belgium had 82.6 % in 1999. Even Russia, so new to voting in a
democracy, reported a 67.5 % turnout in 1996.4 In January 2005, in
spite of Sunni Muslims largely boycotting the national election and
the insurgents' grave threats to kill those who dared to vote, Iraq
experienced over 60% voter turnout in its first election.5 Subsequent
elections in that country in October 2005 (to ratify the
Constitution) and December 2005 (to install a full-term parliament)
were significantly higher.
Since the 1960 election, voting turnout has declined steadily not
only in presidential elections but congressional contests as well.
Whereas the voting rate was nearly 50 % in the 1960s for midterm
elections, this rate has now fallen to the 30s. In 1998, for example,
only 33% of the electorate turned out to vote. Since the 1974
mid-term congressional election, turnout among voters has been mired
in the 30s.6
Turnout for congressional primaries has taken an even sharper turn.
In 1970, 30% of the electorate participated in choosing who would
represent their party for a House or Senate seat. By 1986, this had
fallen to 20%. Since this time, the average has hovered around 15%.7
This downward trend in voting does not just involve voting turnout
but political participation in general. The political scientist
Thomas Patterson noted that participation has declined in a myriad of
election activities including volunteers who help with campaigns and
viewers who tune in for televised debates. Incredibly, although the
United States had 100 million fewer people in 1960 than in 2000,
fewer viewers tuned into the October debates in 2000.8
Turnout plummeting in the past 45 years from 73 % to the low to high
50s is significant. Nevertheless, it masks the true story, which is
that turnout has declined considerably more than these numbers
suggest. Consider the factor of education: high levels of education
were thought to engender high levels of political participation.9 It
was assumed that as education levels continued to rise, with more
Americans attending college, turnout would also rise. Yet, it has
declined. How could this be? In 1960, half the population did not
finish high school, whereas now 25% have a college degree with
another 25% having attended college.10 Clearly, some force is turning
off voters, which was not foreseen years before.
Compounding this mystery is the easing of registration requirements.
Before the Motor Voter Act passed in 1993, some states purged voters
off rolls for little reason. Many states mandated that voters
register months before the election to be eligible.11 Lowi, Ginsberg,
and Shepsle report that throughout the 20th century, registration
requirements were quite burdensome:
"[Voters] usually could register only during business hours on
weekdays. Many potential voters could not afford to lose a day's pay
in order to register. Voters were usually required to register well
before the next election, in some states up to several months
earlier...Since most personal registration laws required a periodic
purge of the election rolls, ostensibly to keep them up-to-date,
voters often had to re-register to maintain their eligibility."12
Nevertheless, despite these burdensome requirements, turnout
throughout the 19th century often approached 85 % of eligible voters.13
Today, however, no state is allowed to mandate that voters
register more than 30 days prior to a federal election.14 Indeed,
many states allow citizens to register one to three weeks before the
election. There are even seven states (Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New
Hampshire, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Wyoming) that allow residents
to register the very day they vote.15 Nevertheless, several of these
states have recorded sharp voter turnout declines: from 1960 to 1996,
New Hampshire's turnout has declined by 21.3%; Idaho by 20.2%;
Wisconsin by 14.5%; Wyoming by 13.2%.16
It is hard to imagine that in spite of registration
requirements becoming easier, turnout has sharply decreased.
Moreover, the Motor Voter Act, enacted into law in 1993, makes
registering as easy as ever. Under this law, citizens can register at
any driver's license agency. The act also encourages states to offer
registration at unemployment offices and public places, such as
libraries and schools. Citizens could even register by mail. The act
prohibits states from arbitrarily purging voters' names off rolls.17
Voters do not need to take off work to find a registration
site, often located in obscure places. The entire registration
process has been condensed into several minutes. Nevertheless, since
this comprehensive act was passed, while registration has increased,
the percentage of eligible citizens voting has declined in most elections.18
Perhaps the most marked difference between 1960 and today is the
Civil Rights movement that eliminated barriers to voting in the
South. Ratified in 1964, the 24th Amendment prohibits states from
requiring citizens to pay any kind of poll tax before voting in a
federal election. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated the use of
literacy tests. Thus, the 63% who turned out in 1960 is an
artificially low number, for many poor whites and African Americans
were turned away at the polls. Others may have been too intimidated
to vote. To observe the difference we need to look at turnout for
non-southern states in 1960, which was about 73%. Consequently,
turnout has really declined over 20% in 40 years.19
Turnout rates reported prior to 1964 are artificially low because
the South trailed the rest of the country in voting rates, due to its
discriminatory practices. (Please see Figure 1 in the Appendix
showing trends in presidential voting, 1828-1996, outside the South
and in the South.) For example, between 1900 and 1960, southern
voting rates hovered between 20 to 38 % of the population. This rate
included all African Americans, who were technically allowed to vote,
and therefore counted by the U.S. Census (and other studies) in the
overall percentage of those who voted.20 This makes the 1960
percentage of voters artificially low. Therefore, to understand
declining voter turnout in America, we must compare voting rates
today with the non-South, otherwise the comparison is meaningless.
After all, our interest is in why citizens do not vote when they can.
If they do not vote because they are disenfranchised, that is another
matter entirely. The rate I will use as a benchmark to explore
declining voter turnout, therefore, is 73%, the percentage of
eligible Americans in the non-South who voted in 1960.21
The Importance of Turnout
Why is voter turnout important? First, such a low participation rate
is an embarrassment for a country that prides itself on being the
world's first democracy. How can America inspire other fledgling
democracies around the world, like Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, if its
own citizens don't vote?
Yet there are more practical implications as well. The
political scientist Thomas Patterson believes that "as turnout in
recent congressional primaries declined, hard-core partisans (the
'wing nuts') became an increasingly large proportion of those voting,
which contributed to the more frequent defeat of moderate candidates.
In turn, Congress became a more divided and rancorous institution."22
Declining turnout could partially affect Congress' inability to reach
key compromises and could encourage grandstanding. A broader
electorate would force candidates to run on a broader platform.
Low voter turnout often means that a few groups are overrepresented
in Congress, while many groups are excluded. According to Thomas
Patterson, as the electorate –- those citizens who actually cast a
vote -- has shrunk, it has come to include citizens who tend to have
higher incomes, are older, and who hold intense positions on a
variety of issues.23 Both parties have been accused of catering to
special interests and the rich. Yet, in a way, this is inevitable
given the voting patterns. The problem with citizens not showing up
is that they take themselves out of the political process and do not
help define the agenda or affect the choices their leaders make.
There are also civic benefits that may come from voting. In fact,
the sociologist Robert Putnam has found that the very act of voting
can improve citizen participation in a number of activities. He
reports that when people vote, they are more attentive to politics
and are better informed about a range of issues. He also found that
the act of consistently voting makes one more likely to volunteer and
engage in the community. Although Putnam does not claim that
consistent voting actually causes greater community engagement, he
has found that these two activities are positively correlated, that
is, one may reinforce the other.24
Four Traditional Explanations for Explaining Declining Voter Turnout
Why is voter turnout declining? This question has puzzled scholars
for three decades. During this time, four distinct explanations have
emerged in the field as to why citizens are not voting. The first
category consists of those political scientists who believe weakened
political parties are the reason. Scholars who argue this position
assert that for most of American history, political parties have been
a major force in mobilizing the electorate. As Americans have become
less loyal to political parties in the past 40 years, with many
voters considering themselves independents, this mobilizing force is
largely absent. These scholars note that turnout rates have dropped
at the same time citizens began to identify less with the nation's
The second and third categories consist of institutional
reasons. Some scholars argue the low voting numbers are a result of
flaws in the system, such as registration problems, the fact that
citizens must vote on a workday, etc. A subset of this institution
group, which I will call "elite bias," argues that political elites –
party leaders, major donors, elected officials, etc. -- are not
interested in mobilizing the electorate because they have found other
– nonelectoral -- ways of achieving their political objectives, such
as litigation and administrative rulings. As voters are an
unpredictable lot – there's no way of knowing how they will vote,
best to leave them out of the system. In other words, citizens have
not been coming to the polls because, in essence, the political
elites want it that way.
The fourth category cites media and behavioral reasons. This group
believes that many voters no longer show up at the polls because they
have soured on the political process. They hold low levels of trust
and efficacy in government. They believe politics is so corrupt it is
not worth getting involved in. Events such as Vietnam and Watergate
are often blamed for this decline in public trust but so is the rise
of the mass media and attack journalism. As journalists have become
more distrustful of public officials, stories are framed in such a
way as to increase the public cynicism about the political process.
My argument, which is original in its synthesis of previous
explanations, is that in the past 45 years, the mass media has
effectively supplanted the traditional role of political parties in
educating the voter and serving as a guide throughout the process.
However, unlike parties, which excelled at mobilizing voters and
providing reasons to vote, I will show that the mass media tends to
encourage cynicism and reasons not to vote. As parties have become
weaker and the media stronger, this process has accelerated to the
point where campaigns in the past several decades are not so much
party affairs as they are media events; they are no longer
party-centered but candidate-centered.
Weakness of Political Parties
In advancing the argument that voter turnout has declined
largely because the mass media has supplanted political parties, we
must first understand what the traditional role of political parties
was in the American political system, and how they were instrumental
in mobilizing citizens to vote. In his classic work The Decline of
American Political Parties, Martin Wattenberg noted the unifying
function of parties in a system otherwise designed to fragment power.
He wrote that political parties were unique in their ability to
generate symbols of identification and loyalty, to aggregate and
articulate political interests, to socialize voters and maintain a
popular following and to recruit political leadership and pursue
governmental offices, among other functions. For Wattenberg and other
political scientists, modern democracy was unthinkable were it not
Parties have long served to orient the citizen through an
otherwise complex array of decisions (as stated above, Americans have
more choices at the ballot box than any other nation except
Switzerland). A kind of psychological attachment occurs when one
belongs to a party.26 In the U.S., electoral politics is complicated
and time-consuming for the average citizen, more than nearly any
other democratic country. Americans are asked to vote for political
offices ranging from president and senator to state senator and state
representative, to mayor, school board members, judges, and many
other offices. They are expected to make these decisions often. In
fact, one study showed they are faced with more than a dozen separate
elections in four years.27 Shortcuts or voting cues, therefore, are essential.
Moreover, Ginsberg and colleagues have found that individual
voters tend to form psychological ties with parties, and this party
loyalty encourages them to take part far more than those without such ties.28
Clearly, parties have played a key role in electoral politics
throughout our country's history. Yet, over the past several decades,
they have declined. Why should this be the case? One answer may be
that elections today are no longer party-centered. Instead, they have
become unrelentingly candidate-centered. Successful candidates must
constantly monitor public opinion because their campaign lives or
dies in the present. Patterson wrote that "unlike the party politics
of old, there is no thought of using today's defeat to build toward
In a given election, salient issues arise when the
candidate's pollsters identify them as strategic weapons, and these
same issues are often forgotten in future elections.30 In other
words, ideas and issues no longer emanate from the party but from the
present needs of the campaign. This has contributed to the decline of
the party as an idea – what people carry in their heads when thinking
about the party. Patterson notes that at one time, the party shaped
its messages with large ideas, thereby connecting its future to that
of it supporters. Politics has since reversed, based largely on
immediate promises to nearly any group that can deliver votes.31
Certainly, this process complicates citizens' efforts to embrace
parties as vehicles in which to place their trust.
The new reality of candidate-centered elections is borne out
by the presidential candidates' rhetoric. Roderick Hart, a
communication scholar at the University of Texas, studied candidates'
choices of words between 1948-1996. He found that over the years,
candidates talked much more about themselves and far less about
political parties. Their emphasis became far more about the present,
and less about the future.32 Politics having become fiercely
candidate-centered has left many citizens unsure as to what the
parties stand for, and how they differ from each other.
Revised Presidential Nomination System Further Weakens Parties
As campaigns were increasingly candidate-centered and as parties
declined as objects of loyalty and thought in people's minds, the
party system was perhaps dealt a crushing blow by the revised
nomination system, first used in 1972.
In 1972, under the chairmanship of Senator George McGovern,
the newly created Commission on Party Structure and Delegation
Selection laid down a set of rules and standards to govern Democratic
parties in every state and territory appointing delegates to the
national convention. The commission dismantled the party officials'
right to appoint delegates. These rules opened up the nominating
process and in so doing, gave presidential campaigns a very
unpredictable quality. As Robert Shogan points out, this gave
structural impetus to the rising power of the media – endowing its
judgment with greater authority.33
The McGovern-Fraser reforms were groundbreaking not only in how
campaigns were waged for a party's nomination but also in formally
disavowing the old system run by party leaders.1 The new system
denied party leaders the power to recruit, evaluate, and select
potential nominees. With the new rules taking control from party
regulars, a vacuum of power was created. Those pushing for reform
assumed the voters -- the rank and file -- would be the new
kingmakers. But this assumption was false. The rank and file needed
guidance. After all, they were not deciding merely a yes-no vote on a
single issue of policy. Voters needed to make a complex decision that
is difficult even for seasoned party professionals. Since the press
was the only intermediary left, the McGovern-Fraser commission
essentially anointed them as the new power brokers.34
This proved to be a watershed event for the press. No longer
merely a vehicle for candidates to get out their message, the media
became the vehicle for educating and influencing voters. The press
was quickly filling the roles formerly performed by the political
parties: the media would examine the candidates' platforms, evaluate
their fitness for the presidency, and determine their chances to be
elected.35 In addition, the press needed to implement these tasks in
a way that would allow the voters to exercise their discretion
effectively in the choice of nominees. The problem is, as we shall
see in the next chapter, the media is not suited for this purpose.
They are, in Patterson's words, the "miscast institution."
With the reforms in place, the parties lost essential
functions in recruiting and nominating candidates. In fact, the noted
political scientist E.E. Schattschneider identified these functions
as the most critical: "Unless the party makes authoritative and
effective nominations, it cannot stay in business. The nature of the
nominating procedure determines the nature of the party."36
Another way the McGovern-Fraser commission weakened the
political parties was through sapping the national party conventions
of their energy and purpose. National party conventions were once
exciting affairs, with an unpredictable quality. The public paid
attention because the presidential nominee was not known beforehand,
and there was suspense as to who would be chosen. Conventions were
sometimes tumultuous, as was the Democratic convention of 1924, which
lasted nine days and went to 103 ballots, or the 1964 Republican
convention when Goldwater supporters shouted down Nelson Rockefeller.
More important, with the nation tuning in, the conventions offered a
chance for the party to speak directly with the electorate. It shored
up old loyalties and perhaps invited new ones. Today, however, sapped
of their strength, conventions are choreographed, made-for-TV events,
designed to keep dissent off the floor.37
Television Helps Disengage the Electorate
In discussing how the mass media has supplanted the traditional
roles political parties once played, we also need to consider the
technology underlying mass media – in particular, television. Perhaps
more than any other invention in the 20th century, television has
reshaped the political arena and has enabled the mass media to assume
center stage in recent elections.
Television has weakened political parties in two key ways. First,
the medium allows candidates to speak directly to the voter, through
advertisements or staged media appearances. The medium also
encourages voters to get their information from the television
journalists who come into their living rooms. Citizens no longer rely
on the party for guidance in voting. Television has helped fuel the
candidate-centered campaign. With the advent of television,
party-centered campaigns gradually faded away. With its great reach
and expense, television also relegated parties into fundraising
machines to raise the money largely for advertisements -- that would
run on television.
Television, in particular the habitual viewing of it, has
contributed to a disengagement from civic life. Political parties
thrive in an environment in which citizens regularly attend meetings,
or volunteer for grassroots organizations. In the past, parties
relied on this kind of engagement. But television has encouraged
citizens to remain tied to their homes, and has established the mass
media as the source such citizens use for guidance and information on
politics and elections. In essence, the widespread habitual use of
television, in which viewers watch whatever is on for long periods of
time, has created a toxic environment for political parties but an
ideal environment for the media to thrive in. Habitual (as opposed to
selective) watching of television is considerably more widespread
among the younger generations (below forty), even among the highly educated.38
Clearly, the hours spent watching television has further
weakened political parties, which rely on civic engagement, and has
helped give rise to the mass media, which has effectively supplanted
it. Yet, Putnam's study reveals something even more startling:
Collective forms of engagement have declined far more than individual
forms of engagement. Whereas television has cut individual activities
(such as signing petitions or writing letters to elected officials)
by 10-15%, habitual TV viewing has reduced collective activities,
such as attending public meetings or taking a leadership role in
grassroots organizations, by up to 40%.39 This staggering figure
reveals just how toxic the environment has become for political
parties, which rely on such public, collective activities to build a
strong base and organization. In addition, TV gives the illusion that
the citizen is involved in the community and with others, even though
they are not. This creates a kind of remote-control politics in which
viewers feel engaged with their community but are not actually being engaged.40
How Media-Centered Elections Tend To Increase Cynicism and Decrease Turnout
Voter turnout has declined not only as political parties have
weakened but also as parties have been supplanted by the mass media.
The problem is that the media does not have the same goals or
attributes as parties. The media does not energize the electorate and
give them reasons to vote, the way parties once did. In fact, with
the rise of attack journalism and intensely negative coverage of
candidates, the press has mainly given citizens reasons not to vote.41
The negative way reporters cover candidates, known as attack
journalism, emerged out of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.
Whereas campaign coverage of presidential candidates was 25% negative
in 1960, by 1972 it became 40%. In 1980, negative coverage reached 50
% and has hovered around 60 % since 1988.42
This negative coverage has led to a decrease in satisfaction
the public feels about the candidates. In 1936, the Gallup
organization began asking voters how satisfied they were with the
presidential candidates. From that time through the 1960s, every
candidate, except Barry Goldwater, was perceived favorably. Since the
advent of media-centered elections in the late 1960s, almost half the
presidential candidates have had an unfavorable rating.43
The media is often accused of having an ideological bias.
Some on the left charge the media is too sympathetic with
conservative causes, while those on the right assail the media for
showing its liberal leanings. Studies of the media have found that
neither of these biases is particularly pronounced.44 However, one
bias that plagues many media outlets is an excessive concern for the
negative. For example, in the 2000 election, much of Bush's coverage
suggested he was not intelligent. There were nine claims of this kind
for every opposite claim. Similarly, much of Gore's coverage
suggested he was not truthful. These claims outnumbered rebuttals by
seventeen to one.45 Negative coverage is not limited to presidential
candidates but also affects governance. When policy programs fail,
they receive far more attention than when they succeed. When public
officials misbehave, the coverage far outweighs when they triumph.
When a president's approval rating drops, it receives far more
coverage than when it rises. 46
The impact of negative coverage has been considerable. The
problem, neatly defined, is this: while audiences filter the news
through their personal experiences, attitudes, and social network of
family, friends, and acquaintances, it is the media that supplies
them with most of the raw materials upon which they will make
decisions and form attitudes about political leaders and
institutions. If the raw material is negative and not informative
about issues worth voting on, voters will gradually disengage from
While Vietnam was a major factor in adversarial reporting, no
single event had a greater impact than Watergate. Watergate not only
made a deep impression on reporters that public officials would
continuously lie, but the scandal became a kind of myth that helped
to define journalism. This myth was that a corrupt government had
temporarily overtaken American democracy, but that the press, the
watchdogs of freedom, had shed light on this corruption and saved
democracy. The press believed it had a constant obligation to protect
the public from those who seek to lie or manipulate. While the
watchdog role was previously established, Watergate gave it a new
urgency. Politicians would no longer be taken at their word.
Reporters would assume that authorities could not be trusted. Their
accounts would be subject to intense scrutiny.48
The political scientist Larry Sabato noted that the Watergate
scandal "had the most profound impact of any modern event on the
manner and substance of the press's conduct. In many respects
Watergate began the press's open season on politicians in a chain
reaction that today allows for scrutiny of even the most private
sanctums of public officials' lives."49 Sabato also observed that,
coupled with Vietnam and the civil rights movement, Watergate
re-oriented journalism from mere "description" to "prescription" – or
helping to set the campaign's agendas by concentrating on the
candidates' flaws and certain social problems. As a result of
Watergate, a new generation of reporters entered journalism that as a
group mistrusted authority, while disdaining "politics as usual."
This group now manages newsrooms across the nation.50
The inevitable result of this change in journalism is that
many in the press are in Sabato's words, "not merely skeptical of the
pols, they are contemptuous of and corrosively cynical about them,
and some reverse the usual presumption of innocence into 'guilty
unless proven otherwise.' Partly, this is an understandable reaction
to their own earlier naivete and betrayal."51 The problem is that
while skeptical coverage may have begun as a way for the Fourth
Estate to hold politicians accountable, it soon became an end unto
itself. Criticism became the starting point in the search for and
shaping of news stories.
Five consecutive presidents after Nixon received a preponderance of
bad press, with Clinton's coverage the most negative. Congress also
suffered negative coverage.52 Studies show press coverage was
steadily negative after the early 1970s, irrespective of which party
was in control or what may or may not have been accomplished. One
scholar found that between 1972 to 1992, allegations of personal
impropriety rose from 4 % to 17% – one in every six stories. Federal
agencies also received harsh coverage: the State Department's
coverage was only 13 % positive, while the Justice Department's
coverage was a paltry 10 % favorable.53
Content analyses examining media coverage of government have yielded
startling numbers. In the general election of 1992, negative coverage
was not reserved merely for the candidates Bush, Perot, and Clinton.
More than 80 % of network news stories on the Democratic Party were
negative; 87 % of references to the Republican Party were
unfavorable. Congress received a staggering 90 % negative news. It
would be hard to imagine a more unfavorable statistic, but the
federal government received 93 % negative coverage during this time.54
This avalanche of negative coverage fueled public mistrust
and dissatisfaction. In 1964, 76% reported they trusted the national
government to do the right thing "most of the time"; by 1994, only
21% had this level of trust, the lowest level ever recorded. The
"Harris Confidence Index" which measures citizens' confidence in
their leaders, fell by more than half between 1966 and 1997.55 As the
political journalist David Broder put it: "Cynicism is epidemic right
now. It saps people's confidence in politics and public officials,
and it erodes both the standing and standards of journalism. If the
assumption is that nothing is on the level, nothing is what it seems,
then citizenship becomes a game for fools, and there is no point in
trying to stay informed."56
Many studies have shown a correlation between the negative
coverage surrounding presidential candidates and the negative image
of these candidates held by voters. Other studies have documented a
link between negative news and poor impressions of Congress and other
federal agencies.57 (Please see Figure 2 in the Appendix, which shows
that as negative coverage increased, so did voters' unfavorable
opinions about candidates.)
Sabato attributes some of the rise in negative coverage to
the loosening of libel laws. He writes that for many years, a
reporter would demure from writing a story critical of a politician's
character for fear of a libel suit. The chilling effect of libel laws
were lifted in 1964 when the Supreme Court ruled in New York Times
Co. v. Sullivan that merely publishing a defamatory falsehood would
not make one liable. To win a libel suit, the public official would
have to prove "actual malice," a requirement that soon included all
public figures. The "actual malice" rule has made it very hard for
officials to win in court. One comprehensive study found that the
Sullivan standard had made only one in ten plaintiffs prevail. Many
scholars believe that the loosening of the libel law, therefore, has
emboldened the media to investigate and report on a candidate's
"character" or private life.58
A common charge the media makes is that candidates will say anything
to get elected. The press often gives the impression that candidates
change their position as they address different groups, or make
promises they do not intend to keep. Many studies have shown,
however, that candidates do by and large keep their promises, or they
at least try to enact the legislation they spoke about in the
campaign. Exhaustive studies comparing winning candidates' campaign
promises with what they did as president have shown this undoubtedly
to be the case. Each study spanned at least seven presidencies and
all reached the same conclusion. Michael Krukones, for example,
compared campaign speeches and performance as president of eleven
recent presidents and found a very high crossover rate. Jeff Fishel
of American University compared the promises and performances of
presidents from Kennedy through Reagan and found most promises were
kept. The same can be said for party platforms. The political
scientist Gerald Pomper's detailed analysis of party platforms in
nine presidential elections found that victorious candidates do try
to implement their policy commitments.59
Still, the belief persists that candidates will say anything to get
elected, and that their campaign promises are mere rhetoric. This
belief is particularly harmful because it goes to the heart of what
an election is all about: examining what is wrong in America and what
policy needs to be implemented to improve the country's position.
The Rise of Interpretive Journalism
Clearly, adversarial journalism has helped fuel public cynicism.
Yet, the last several decades have seen another important development
in journalism: interpretive journalism. An interpretive style of
reporting seeks to explain as well as describe. In the old style, the
reporter transported the audience to the scene of an event and
described what happened. In the new interpretive style, the
journalist analyzes, informing the audience not merely "what" but
"why." This change in style gradually, but undeniably, shifted
control of the news to the journalists. While newsmakers' actions
would constitute the headlines and story leads, the story itself
would be shaped by the journalist's interpretation imposed on events.
This meant that the newsmaker was no longer at the center.60
In practical terms, this increasingly meant that the public would
not really hear the candidates for very long before being interrupted
by a reporter. In 1968, when presidential candidates appeared on
television, they were usually speaking. The average "sound bite" – or
the period of uninterrupted speech by a candidate on television news
– was over 40 seconds. By 1988, the average was less than 10 seconds.
In many cases, the candidates were only pictured, while the
journalist talked over them. In 2000, for each minute that Gore and
Bush spoke on the evening newscasts, the journalists covering them
spoke 6 minutes. Incredibly, the two candidates received a mere 12%
of election coverage, while anchors and correspondents consumed
three-fourths of the time.61
The story is no less dramatic for newspapers. In 1960, the average
continuous quote or paraphrase of a newsmaker's words in articles
appearing on the front page was 20 lines. By the 1990s, the quote or
paraphrase had slipped to seven lines.62
One of the effects of this shifting coverage has been to make it
difficult for the candidate to speak to the public. It is hard to get
your message out, when constantly interrupted and interpreted by the
press. Yet an even more important effect is that interpretive
reporting opened the floodgates for a new way to cover campaigns:
emphasizing strategy, infighting within the campaign, and so-called
horse-race coverage. Interpretive reporting is not harmful in and of
itself, but it has ushered in a new kind of reporting that has
overemphasized these aspects to the detriment of covering important
policy issues and what is at stake in the election.
Media's Obsession with Gaffes, Strategy, and Horse Race Leads to
In spite of a more educated citizenry and a proliferation of mass
communication, research shows that Americans are no better informed
on public affairs today than they were 50 years ago.63 With so many
more channels of information and education available, how could this
be? An important reason is that the media fails in its job of
informing the public, in explaining the important issues of the day
and why they matter. Of course, one cannot assign all the blame to
the media. After all, learning requires an attentive student and
citizens must make an effort to learn, which includes staying current
with the news. But in this section I will show that the media's
constant attention to unimportant matters -- namely, gaffes/scandals,
strategy, and the horse race -- leads to an uninformed and ultimately
Gaffes tend to make for continuous news coverage. One study
found that more than 50 % of gaffes received extended coverage
(meaning that one story lasts for at least two consecutive days)
compared with 15 % of policy stories. Nightly newscasts offered
extended coverage to over 65 % of gaffe stories versus 10 % of policy
stories.64 Gaffe stories covered in moderation can be entertaining
and may even lend color to the election coverage. However, they are
covered to such a degree that the reporting tends to cheapen the
campaign. Through excessive coverage, journalists not only report the
news, but often create it. A good example of this, of course, is the
now notorious Howard Dean "scream" speech in which Dean, in trying to
rally his troops after a loss in the Iowa caucus, exclaimed the
states his campaign would win and let out a scream. The media smelled
blood and went on a "feeding frenzy" from which Dean never recovered.
Given that coverage of public affairs has already receded to
make way for softer news (such as features, celebrity news, etc.), an
overemphasis on gaffes takes away time that could be spent explaining
the policy differences between the candidates and what is at stake.
Strategy Coverage of Elections
In addition to gaffe/scandal coverage, attention paid to
campaign strategy has soared.65 Many critics cite the beginning of
this change with Theodore White's The Making of the President, 1960.
Prior to 1960, most Americans had little acquaintance with the
backstage of politics, and how campaigns were waged. White's skillful
narrative brought to light presidential candidates, John F. Kennedy
and Richard M. Nixon, wrestling with important ideas and for
America's future. It marked the first time the public was invited
into the inner workings of a campaign. Yet it was also an upbeat book
that basically looked up to the candidates. The immense success of
this book inspired a trail of imitators, culminating in Joe
McGinnis's The Selling of the President. While following the
structure of White's book, McGinnis's portrayal of the Nixon campaign
took an opposite perspective. The tone was irreverent, as the author
described advertising experts who could as easily have been promoting
toothpaste. The Selling of the President showed a presidential
candidate who scorned the very public he would address in his
speeches. The book suggested the campaign chose positions largely
because they would be effective weapons against its main opponent,
McGinniss's book had an enormous impact on campaign
reporting, particularly in the tendency to contrast what a politician
says with what the reporter believes. James Fallows writes:
"Twenty-five years after The Selling of the President, the day-in,
day-out coverage of politics owes much more to McGinnis's model than
to Theodore White's. TV reports during a presidential campaign
usually end with a "kicker" contrasting what the politician says with
what the reporter thinks is really true.... Newspaper and
newsmagazine stories during the campaign emphasize the chess game
that strategists are playing as they choose issues to emphasize and
create attractive photo opportunities. None of the coverage puts much
weight on the possibility that the candidate really believes what he says."67
The problem is not that occasional strategic reporting is harmful.
The problem occurs when the strategy paradigm – viewing the campaign
through backstage strategic decisions and tactics -- becomes the
dominant window through which reporters perceive and describe the
campaign. Journalists see politics as a competitive struggle for
power, and therefore they interpret campaign events through that lens
– the "strategic game."68 As I will show, this "strategic game" lens,
when excessively used by the media, tends to help fuel public
cynicism about politicians and elections in general.
The "strategy game" dominates many reporters' thinking and is
reflected in the questions they ask candidates or politicians.
Fallows points out that during and after the 1992 Presidential
election, it was evident how different the questions of ordinary
people (whether in town hall forums, callers on radio/TV talk shows,
etc.) were from those posed by reporters at press conferences. The
citizens overwhelmingly inquire about the "what" of politics: how
will you change the healthcare system? What is your plan to reform
welfare? In contrast, reporters ask strategic questions, focusing on
the strategy and tactics of the campaign, such as: How will you
contest charges that you flip-flop?69
Patterson notes that the differences in outlook between reporters
and voters are really differences in schemas. He explains: "A schema
is a cognitive structure that a person uses when processing new
information and retrieving old information. It is a mental framework
the individual constructs from past experiences that helps make sense
of a new situation."70 In other words, schemas are mental tools the
mind uses to deal with complexity. Without schemas, the world would
be too overwhelming to process.
For political journalists today, the dominant schema is that
politics is a strategic game. This means that when reporters learn of
new information during an election, they often interpret it using
their schematic framework, which is that candidates are always
competing for advantage (regardless of the situation) and they play
either well or badly. In contrast, voters possess a different schema
that views politics as a way of selecting leaders and resolving
citizens' problems. From the voters' perspective, policy issues,
leadership traits, and policy debates are the important aspects of
presidential politics. Patterson refers to this as "governing schema."
In contrast, reporters' game schema dominates coverage on all things
political. Fallows points out that the primary impulse of most media
is to present every public issue as if its "real" meaning were the
attempt by parties and candidates to gain an advantage over their
rivals."71 This implies there is always a "real" story behind the
presumed story. The "real" story, of course, is who is winning the
strategic game. This relentless focus on the cynical game of politics
undermines public confidence by insinuating that the political sphere
is mainly a forum in which ambitious politicians struggle for
dominance, rather than an institution where citizens can solve their
In illustrating this point, Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph
Cappella cite the example of a New Hampshire town hall meeting in
1995 between President Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. It was a
cordial meeting between the Speaker of the House and President before
an audience of senior citizens in which they discussed a range of
issues. They disagreed, but cordially. Clinton said of the speech:
"It wasn't a contest; it was a conversation." Gingrich remarked, "I
think just having your leaders chat rather than fight is a good
thing."72 In regard to this friendly forum, the authors ask about the
press: "When offered an alternative form of discourse, what does the
press do? The answer is, in large part, "Fall back on the language of
game, war, and conflict and frame the substance strategically."73
Scholars like Cappella and Jamieson have argued that strategy
coverage consists of several characteristics: winning and losing as
the dominant concern; the language of wars, games, and competition
dominate; campaigns become stories with performers, critics, and
audience (also the voters); great importance placed on performance,
style, and perception of candidate; heavy focus on polls and where
This coverage influences politicians to offer conflict-driven,
sound-bite oriented discourse to the media. If they do not play this
game, they may not be covered at all. The press then claims they are
merely reporting what is said to them. Jamieson and Cappella argue
that "each now feeds the other with politicians providing a menu that
includes what the press seems most likely to cover and the press
arguing that it simply is reporting what it is being offered."75 They
call this mutually reinforcing process a "spiral of cynicism."
Another consequence is that the media's version of the campaign does
not coincide with the voters' concerns. When the press does
communicate stories of substance, it is too often buried beneath the
strategic coverage. This change in election news from a "governing
schema" to a "game schema" has so powerfully influenced political
reporting, it is like a silent revolution. Figure 3 in the Appendix
demonstrates how in the early 1960s, most election stories were
framed with the "policy schema." A particular issue and where the
candidates stood on it was the heart of the story. In the last two
decades, however, elections stories are most often framed within the
"game schema."76 As the chart shows, even newspapers like the New
York Times have dramatically increased their "game schema" coverage,
while scaling back on their "policy schema" coverage.
Excessive Horserace Coverage
The mass media has come to supplant the traditional role political
parties once played. As such, it is incumbent upon them to inform
voters, explain what is at stake, and what their options are. Voters
look to the media for information . The press, however, devotes an
enormous amount of time to covering the horserace aspect of
elections. Superficial horserace reporting – an emphasis on who's
ahead, who's behind, and who's gaining – has become the norm.
Incredibly, of 7,000 print news stories studied between Labor Day and
Election Day, 57% of the coverage was devoted to the so-called
horserace. Only 10 % focused on policy issues. Network news fared no
better: two and a half times more horserace stories aired than
stories covering policy.77
The focus on horserace news can be seen as well in governance.
Bartholomew Sparrow points out in Uncertain Guardians that not even a
week after Clinton's second inauguration, a slew of articles appeared
as to who might run for president in 2000.78
Critics point out that reporters are drawn to horserace coverage and
not policy issues because journalists are usually generalists, not
familiar with the complexities of many issues, and not prepared to
write stories on them. Laziness is also a factor. It is easier to
report on the latest poll than to explain issues. Yet, there is a
more insidious reason: the horserace fits reporters' cynical view of
politics. Reporters are trapped in their "game schema."
The problem with horserace reporting, of course, is that it diverts
attention from issues. Sparrow observes that it "sidesteps discussion
of the purposes of the different candidates and the implications of
their winning, of the impact of legislation's passing, and of the
philosophies and potential consequences of the nominees."79 Viewers
come away from this coverage not understanding why they should care
about the election, or what their options are. More practically,
horserace coverage is often irrelevant because polls change, and how
well candidates do today often means little in how they will fare in
the months ahead.
Media Coverage Tends To Increase Cynicism and Decrease Voter Turnout
There is little question that the media spends disproportionate time
on horserace and gaffe/scandal coverage and that their reporting is
often harshly adversarial, steeped in strategy coverage or "game
schema." What is the impact of this coverage?
The press spending as much time as it does on horserace
coverage and gaffe/scandals diverts attention from what is really
important in the election: what policy issues are in play; how the
candidates differ in their philosophies and intentions regarding
these policies; above all, what is at stake for the average citizen
in the election, and what citizens' options are. The cumulative
effect of horserace and gaffe/scandal coverage is to make it more
like theater and entertainment and less about big ideas and the
future of the country. This leaves citizens with less respect for
their democracy and perhaps less will to participate.
Public discourse is largely informed by what is in the news.
Years of agenda setting research has shown that while the media does
not influence what people think or do, it has a critical role in
shaping what people think and talk about.80 If people are immersed in
an environment of soft news, with much of the public affairs coverage
devoted to superficialities such as the gaffes/scandals, strategy,
and the horse race, civic life suffers.
Election Coverage Fuels Public Cynicism
Yet the impact of adversarial and strategy ("game schema")
coverage is more damaging, for it tends to fuel public cynicism and
mistrust in the political process, which leads to declining voter
turnout. In the "game schema," which dominates election coverage, the
campaign is less a struggle over the future of the country than a
contest between two power-hungry candidates. Journalists or voters
cannot take candidates at their word because the promises they make,
the pledges they offer, are interpreted as little more than ploys.
Reporters, therefore, take it upon themselves to warn the public that
politicians may be changing their position out of convenience or to
pander to an audience.81
Journalists' mistrust of the candidates tends to rub off on
the public and help fuel public cynicism. One startling example of
rampant cynicism is a Time magazine survey that found in 1964 that 60
% of the public generally believed the government would do the right
thing. By 1994, 10 % did. By the same token, a New York Times/CBS
News poll conducted in August, 1995 found that 79 % of the public,
the highest figure in decades, said the government was run by a few
big interests looking out for themselves. Fifty eight % said that
"people like themselves had little to say about what the government
did," indicating low levels of efficacy.82
But do the media cause this cynicism and declining mistrust?
Of course, it is always difficult to prove causality, but many
studies suggest at least a correlation. For example, one study of 94
newspapers conducted by University of Michigan researchers indicated
that print coverage may have this effect. They found that those
readers who in an experiment were exposed to a higher degree of
criticism directed at politicians and political institutions were
more distrustful of government and possessed higher levels of
cynicism.83 Another study examining the 1960-1992 period found that
negative images of presidential candidates increased in measured
proportion with an increase in negative coverage of these
candidates84. A third study found a strong link between negative news
and negative impressions of Congress and other government agencies.85
Kathleen Hall Jamieson and colleagues at the University of
Pennsylvania conducted experiments that show strategy-based stories
activate cynicism in the reader or viewer. After testing how people
reacted to news framed strategically (emphasizing the "game" schema)
versus a more straightforward manner, she writes: "If any conclusion
is supported by the pattern of findings, it is that strategy frames
for news activate cynicism. This conclusion holds in the campaign
study and in the study of health care reform. The effect is not
large; sometimes it is only marginally significant. But the pattern
of differences is consistent. The effect occurs for broadcast as well
as print news, and when the two are combined, the combination is additive."86
Is the public's cynicism justified? That is, can it be that
what we are calling public cynicism is actually realism? Of course,
there is plenty of self-interest in government to go around, but most
studies show that most cynical accounts distort the truth. For
example, as described above, presidents, for the most part, keep
their campaign promises. Jeff Fishel's study examined the promises
and performances of presidents from Kennedy through Reagan, and found
that most pledges were acted upon.87 A second study showed that
members of political parties try to implement their party platforms.
Political scientists Ian Budge and Richard Hofferbert found positive
relationships between postwar (1948-1985) election platforms and
governmental outputs.88 These and other studies show that "healthy
skepticism that long characterized public attitudes toward
[government institutions] has degenerated into corrosive cynicism."89
Adversarial journalism is not the only factor driving down
public trust in government. After all, scandals, corruption, policy
failures, and incompetence also contribute. Moreover, one has to look
at the larger context. In the past several decades, changing
lifestyles and a different ethos have also contributed to a decline
in respect for authority and political institutions.90 Journalism has
been a powerful force – but only one force – contributing to this decline.
Public Cynicism Leads to Declining Voter Turnout
But does public mistrust of government lead to a decline in
voter turnout? Many studies suggest it does. Conducted over the 2000
presidential election at Harvard University, the Vanishing Voter
survey stands as one of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted
in why people do or do not vote. The survey found that 81 % of
respondents agreed with the statement, "most political candidates
will say almost anything to get themselves elected." Believing that
candidates cannot be trusted discourages people from voting and
getting more politically involved. The Vanishing Voter survey found
that respondents who thought candidates say whatever it takes to get
elected were 10 percentage points less likely to vote than the other
respondents. They were also far less likely to participate in the
campaign.91 In other words, beliefs do matter. If voters believe
politicians will not keep their word, they fail to see the point in
voting or otherwise getting involved. Ironically, candidates usually
deliver on their campaign promises, or they at least try (but may
fail to win passage through Congress).
As Election Day 2000 neared, The Vanishing Voter survey asked
non-registrants and likely nonvoters why they would not vote.
Respondents were asked to choose from a list of possible reasons
including "because I've been so busy I probably won't have time,"
"because I don't have any way to get there," "because I moved and
haven't registered at my new location" and "because I'm not a U.S.
citizen." What came out on top of the non-registration list and
second on the nonvoter list was the reason "Disgusted with politics."
Specifically, 38 % of non-registrants and 37 % of nonvoters cited
"disgust with politics" as the principal reason for not voting.92
In an attempt to establish a link between political
dissatisfaction and voting, respondents in the Vanishing Voter survey
were asked this question: "Do you agree or disagree that most
politicians are liars or crooks?" to identify levels of mistrust.
Forty-four percent agreed that "most politicians are liars or
crooks." In analyzing the results, Harvard researchers found that
this particular group was 13 percentage points less likely to vote
than those who disagreed that most politicians are liars or crooks.
Moreover, the finding was statistically significant even when income,
education, and age were accounted for.93
This 13 % may represent a new kind of non-voter, one who is
disillusioned by politics and unmotivated to become involved. This
new non-voter likely came forth from the relentless negative news and
"game strategy" that has permeated election coverage the last several
decades and induces cynicism. The Vanishing Voter survey found that
many in this group sometimes discuss politics and keep up with the
news. They do not differ from others in any substantial way except
one: disgust with politics, and this leads many to not come to the polls.
The 'Miscast Institution'
The media has replaced the traditional role political parties once
played in vetting candidates for office and providing information to
the voter, among other activities. Many critics charge that the media
is simply not set up to handle these new tasks. The media has become,
in the words of one author, a "miscast institution."94 In contrasting
the role of the media with the role of political parties, Patterson
notes that whereas parties are driven by their traditions and
constituent interests, the press is driven by the never ending search
after the Now.95 Indeed, Walter Lippmann wrote 83 years ago that the
press and political institutions perform separate, yet critical roles
for democracy. While democracy cannot thrive without a free press,
the press cannot be expected to perform the role of political
institutions.96 Yet, this is what has happened during the last several decades.
For democracy to thrive, citizens need an institution that can
inform and organize electoral opinion. This institution needs
"incentives that cause it to identify and organize those interests
that are making demands for policy representation. And it must be
accountable for its choices, so that the public can reward it when
satisfied and force amendments when dissatisfied."97
The problem is that the media possesses none of these
attributes. Whereas the party has a built-in motivation – the
opportunity to gain political power – to give voice to interests and
forge them into a winning coalition, the press lacks this incentive.
The main motivation of the press is the discovery and reporting of
compelling stories. In addition, the press is not politically
accountable. Whereas voters hold political parties accountable
through elections, the public has no comparable authority over the
press. Journalists are never elected to their positions. Of course, a
group of people may threaten to stop supporting a media outlet, but
rarely does an outlet go out of business this way.98
This paper has addressed the question of why voter turnout
has declined sharply since 1960. In spite of rising levels of
education, no discrimination at the polls, and easing of registration
requirements, voting levels have dropped from 73% in 1960 (in the
non-South) to 54% in 2000 and 60% in 2004. To shed light on this
mystery, I argued that the main reason turnout has dropped is because
in the past 45 years, the mass media has come to supplant the
traditional roles political parties once played in informing and
mobilizing voters. In essence, the mass media has become the nation's
de facto political party, yet it is not suited to assume this new
responsibility of voter education and mobilization.
Figure 1: Trends in Presidential Voting, 1828-1996, Outside South and South
Source: Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone, p.32.
Figure 2: Relationship between Election Coverage and Voter Opinion of
Presidential Nominees, 1960-1992
Source: Thomas Patterson, Out of Order, p.23
Figure 3. Schematic Framework of Election Stories on the New York
Times' Front Page, 1960-1992
Source: Thomas Patterson, Out of Order, p.74
1 Curtis Gans, Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, 2005.
3 Thomas Patterson, The Vanishing Voter (New York: Random House, 2003).
4 Martin Wattenberg, Where Have All the Voters Gone? (MA: Harvard U.
5 Anthony Shadid, "Iraqis Defy Threats as Millions Vote," The
Washington Post, January 31, 2005, A1.
6 Wattenberg, Where Have All the Voters Gone?
8 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
11 Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American
Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).
12Theodore Lowi, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Keneth Shepsle, American
Government: Power and Purpose (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2002), p 427.
14 Watternberg, Where Have All the Voters Gone?
17 Lowi, Ginsberg, and Shepsle, American Government: Power and Purpose.
19 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
24 Putnam, Bowling Alone.
25 Martin Wattenberg, The Decline of American Political Parties,
1952-1996 (MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).
28 Lowi, Ginsberg, and Shepsle, American Government: Purpose and Power.
29 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter, p.25.
30 Richard Davis, The Press and American Politics (New Jersey:
Prentice Hall, 1996).
31 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
32 Roderick Hart, Campaign Talk: Why Elections Are Good for Us (New
Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000).
33 Robert Shogan, Bad News: Where the Press Goes Wrong in the Making
of the President (Chicago: Ivan R Dee, 2001).
36 Wattenberg, The Decline of American Political Parties, 1952-1996, p.74.
37 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
38 Putnam, Bowling Alone.
40 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
41 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
44 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
46 Joseph Cappella and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Spiral of Cynicism
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
47 Thomas Patterson, Out of Order (New York: Vintage Books, 1994).
48 Larry Sabato, Feeding Frenzy (New York: Free Press, 1993).
49 Sabato, Feeding Frenzy, p. 61.
51 Ibid, p.63.
52 Sabato, Feeding Frenzy.
56 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter, p.75.
58 Sabato, Feeding Frenzy.
59 Patterson, Out of Order.
60 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
63 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
65 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
66 James Fallows, Breaking the News (New York: Pantheon Books, 1996).
67 Fallows, Breaking the News, p.61.
68 Patterson, Out of Order.
69 Fallows, Breaking the News.
70 Patterson, Out of Order, p.56
71 Fallows, Breaking the News.
72 Cappella and Jamieson, Spiral of Cynicism, p.5.
73 Cappella and Jamieson, Spiral of Cynicism, p.10
75 Ibid, p.10
76 Patterson, Out of Order.
77 Sabato, Feeding Frenzy.
78 Bartholomew Sparrow, Uncertain Guardians (Baltimore: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1999).
79 Ibid, p.47.
80 David Protess and Maxwell McCombs. Agenda Setting: Readings on
Media, Public Opinion, and Policy Making (NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1991).
81 Patterson, Out of Order.
82 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
85 Davis, The Press and American Politics.
86 Cappella and Jamieson, Spiral of Cynicism, p.159.
89 Cappella and Jamieson, Spiral of Cynicism, p.25.
90 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter.
93 Patterson, The Vanishing Voter. The correlation between the
mistrust measure ("most politicians are liars or crooks") and voting
(measured by intention to vote in pre-election surveys and reported
voting after the election) was .139, which is significant at the .001
level. When income or education is controlled, the correlation is
.111, significant at the .001 level. With age controlled, the
correlation increases to .143, also significant at the .001 level.
94 Patterson, Out of Order.
95 Patterson, Out of Order.
96 Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: The Free Press, 1922).
97 Patterson, Out of Order, p.36.
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