Washington, October 30 : Investigating the effect of newspaper endorsements for presidential candidates, two Brown University economists have come to the conclusion that they can actually influence voting decision.
Brian Knight and graduate student Chun Fang Chiang say that voters are more likely to support the recommended candidate following the publication of an endorsement, but any degree of influence depends on the credibility of the paper's pick.
The researchers have observed that newspapers are potentially biased in favour of one of the candidates, and that voters rationally account for the credibility of any endorsement.
They substantiate this suggestion with their observation that endorsements for the Democratic candidate from left-leaning newspapers are less influential than those from neutral or right-leaning newspapers, and likewise for endorsements for the Republican candidate.
Knight said the findings "suggest that voters are sophisticated and attempt to filter out any bias in media coverage of politics."
During the study, the researchers used individual-level data on voting intentions and newspaper readership in the months leading up to the 2000 and 2004 elections.
The team measured endorsement credibility based on the ideological leanings of newspapers, ownership, and reader preferences.
The researchers say that their findings are particularly interesting considering the 2008 presidential election, for over 150 newspapers across the country have already endorsed Senator John McCain or Senator Barack Obama for president.
According to Editor and Publisher Magazine, more than 27 newspapers that backed George W. Bush in 2004 have endorsed Obama this year.
"We expect these Obama endorsements to be particularly influential since they have more credibility than endorsements from newspapers that always support the Democrat," said Knight, associate professor of economics and public policy.