Local Newspaper Decline and Political Polarization
Shifting media diets are increasingly viewed as a key driver of political polarization. In particular, prior research has focused on greater choice between partisan outlets and the rise of online news. This paper sheds light on a heretofore understudied yet equally salient development: the decline of local news. We argue that local news exits can induce polarization by increasing exposure to news about national politics, where partisan and ideological differences are more salient than at the local level. To test our argument, we draw on a novel panel data set of the coverage areas of all German news- papers between 1980 and 2009. Using a difference-in-differences design, we demonstrate that local news exits increase electoral polarization. Consistent with our theoretical argument, we also find that local news exits lead to increased consumption of national news, higher degrees of partisan identification, and increased political engagement at the individual level.
The paper can be found as a preprint here.
Fabio Ellger is Research Fellow of the WZB Research Unit Transformations of Democracy.
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