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The Presidency and Local Media: Local Newspaper Coverage of President George W. Bush


Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha is an assistant professor of political science at the University of North Texas. He has published on the presidency and public policy in several journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Congress and the Presidency, and Policy Studies Journal. His recent book—The President's Speeches: Beyond “Going Public”—examines the impact of presidential speeches on public policy in Congress and the bureaucracy.

Jeffrey S. Peake is an associate professor of political science at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. His research on the public presidency, foreign policy, and presidential-congressional relations has appeared in numerous journals including the American Political Science Review, Political Research Quarterly, Political Communication, and American Politics Research. He has a forthcoming book, Treaty Politics and the Rise of Executive Agreements, with Glen Krutz.


Presidents increasingly bypass the filter of national media and take their message on the road to appeal to local audiences through local news outlets. We examine local newspaper coverage of President George W. Bush in 2003. Presumably, the president would enjoy mostly positive coverage from local newspapers. Yet, we demonstrate substantial variation in local news coverage, with community support for the president being a primary predictor of whether he will receive positive coverage. We also find that stories on the Iraq War contributed to negative coverage, even at the local level. We conclude with commentary on the utility of presidents' local media strategy in light of our findings.