What Drives Media Slant? Evidence From U.S. Daily Newspapers

Authors

  • Matthew Gentzkow,

    1. University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, U.S.A. and NBER; gentzkow@chicagobooth.edu
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  • Jesse M. Shapiro

    1. University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, U.S.A. and NBER; jesse.shapiro@chicagobooth.edu
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    • We are grateful to Attila Ambrus, David Autor, Gary Becker, Gary Chamberlain, Raj Chetty, Tim Conley, Liran Einav, Edward Glaeser, Tim Groseclose, Christian Hansen, Justine Hastings, Chris Hayes, Daniel Hojman, Matt Kahn, Larry Katz, John List, Kevin M. Murphy, Ben Olken, Ariel Pakes, Andrea Prat, Riccardo Puglisi, Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, Andrei Shleifer, Monica Singhal, Jim Snyder, Wing Suen, Catherine Thomas, Abe Wickelgren, and numerous seminar and conference participants for helpful comments. We especially wish to thank Renata Voccia, Paul Wilt, Todd Fegan, and the rest of the staff at ProQuest for their support and assistance at all stages of this project. Mike Abito, Steve Cicala, Hays Golden, James Mahon, Jennifer Paniza, and Mike Sinkinson provided outstanding research assistance and showed tireless dedication to this project. We also thank Yujing Chen, Alex Fogel, Lisa Furchtgott, Ingrid Gonçalves, Hayden Haralson Hudson, and Hannah Melnicoe for excellent research assistance. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant SES-0617658, as well as the Stigler Center for the Study of the State and the Economy, the Initiative on Global Markets, and the Centel Foundation/Robert P. Reuss Faculty Research Fund, all at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.


Abstract

We construct a new index of media slant that measures the similarity of a news outlet's language to that of a congressional Republican or Democrat. We estimate a model of newspaper demand that incorporates slant explicitly, estimate the slant that would be chosen if newspapers independently maximized their own profits, and compare these profit-maximizing points with firms' actual choices. We find that readers have an economically significant preference for like-minded news. Firms respond strongly to consumer preferences, which account for roughly 20 percent of the variation in measured slant in our sample. By contrast, the identity of a newspaper's owner explains far less of the variation in slant.

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