It's (Change in) the (Future) Economy, Stupid: Economic Indicators, the Media, and Public Opinion



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 60, Issue 3, 803–804, Article first published online: 28 March 2016

  • Previous versions of this article were presented at the 68th Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Boston, May 2013, and the 71st Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April 2013. We are grateful to Stephen Farnsworth and J. Scott Matthews for helpful advice along the way, to Brian J. Fogarty for comments on a previous draft, to Ataman Ozyildirim for help with Conference Board indicators, and to Lori Young for her work on the Lexicoder Sentiment Dictionary. Partial support for this research was provided by the Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture, Quebec, Canada. The data used in this study, as well as a do-file replicating all the results, are available directly from the authors at, as well as in the AJPS Data Archive on Dataverse (


Economic perceptions affect policy preferences and government support. It thus matters that these perceptions are driven by factors other than the economy, including media coverage. We nevertheless know little about how media reflect economic trends, and whether they influence (or are influenced by) public economic perceptions. This article explores the economy, media, and public opinion, focusing in particular on whether media coverage and the public react to changes in or levels of economic activity, and the past, present, or future economy. Analyses rely on content-analytic data drawn from 30,000 news stories over 30 years in the United States. Results indicate that coverage reflects change in the future economy, and that this both influences and is influenced by public evaluations. These patterns make more understandable the somewhat surprising finding of positive coverage and public assessments in the midst of the Great Recession. They also may help explain previous findings in political behavior.