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Talking the Vote: Why Presidential Candidates Hit the Talk Show Circuit


  • Portions of this research were supported by a fellowship from the UCLA Center for American Politics and Public Policy. An earlier draft of this study was presented at the 2002 meeting of the American Political Science Association. I am grateful to the following individuals for helpful comments and suggestions: Jeeyang Rhee Baum, Jamie Druckman, Kristian Gleditsch, Tim Groeling, Sam Kernell, Jeff Lewis, John Zaller, the AJPS editors, and several anonymous reviewers. I also wish to thank Amy Ennis and Angela Jamison for research assistance and Phil Gussin for coordinating the content analysis project. I am also grateful to Paul Rosenthall and Barbara Osborn for assistance in obtaining many of the transcripts and videotapes employed in my content analyses. Finally, I thank the APSA Political Communication section for their support of this project. The data employed in my content analyses, along with coding instructions and variable definitions, can be downloaded at:

Matthew A. Baum is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Communication Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Box 951472, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1472 (


The 2000 presidential election found the major party presidential candidates chatting with Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O'Donnell, and Regis Philbin, trading one-liners with Jay Leno and David Letterman, and discussing rap music on MTV. This study investigates the impact of entertainment-oriented talk show interviews of presidential candidates, using the 2000 election as a case study. I consider why such shows cover presidential politics, why candidates choose to appear on them, and who is likely to be watching. This discussion yields a series of hypotheses concerning the effects of these interviews on public attitudes and voting behavior. I test my hypotheses through a content analysis of campaign coverage by entertainment-oriented talk shows, traditional political interview shows, and national news campaign coverage, as well as through a series of statistical investigations. I find that politically unengaged voters who watch entertainment-oriented TV talk shows are more likely to find the opposition party candidate likeable, as well as to cross party lines and vote for him, relative to their counterparts who are more politically aware or who do not watch such shows.