Television and the Incumbency Advantage in U.S. Elections

Authors

  • STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE,

    1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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    • Stephen Ansolabehere <sda@mit.edu> is the Elting R. Morison Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139–4307.

  • ERIK C. SNOWBERG,

    1. Stanford University
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    • Erik Snowberg <snowberg@stanford.edu> is a Ph.D. candidate, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Ph.D. Program, 518 Memorial Way, Stanford, CA 94305–5015.

  • JAMES M. SNYDER JR.

    1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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    • James M. Snyder, Jr. <millet@mit.edu> is the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139–4307.


Abstract

We use the structure of media markets within states and across state boundaries to study the relationship between television and electoral competition. In particular, we compare incumbent vote margins in media markets where content originates in the same state as media consumers versus vote margins where content originates out of state. This contrast provides a clear test of whether or not television coverage correlates with the incumbency advantage. We study U.S. Senate and state gubernatorial races from the 1950s through the 1990s and find that the effect of TV is small, directionally indeterminate, and statistically insignificant.

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