American Political Science Review


Partisan Cues and the Media: Information Flows in the 1992 Presidential Election

Russell J. Daltona1, Paul A. Becka2 and Robert Huckfeldta3

a1 University of California, Irvine

a2 The Ohio State University

a3 Indiana University


Electoral research acknowledges the growing significance of the mass media in contemporary campaigns, but scholars are divided on the nature of this influence. Using a unique database that includes both media content and public opinion, we examine the flow of partisan information from newspapers to the voters and assess the press's role in electoral politics and citizen learning. We find that the American press does not present clear and singular messages about presidential elections but, rather, multiple messages about the candidates and the campaign. In addition, perception of the information is shaped as much by an individual's political views as by the objective content. Despite the mixed messages, we find that a newspaper's editorial content is significantly related to candidate preferences in 1992. These results challenge the minimal effects interpretation of the media, because local newspapers can play a significant role in providing cues that influence voters' electoral calculus.

Russell J. Dalton is Professor of Political Science, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697

Paul A. Beck is Professor of Political Science, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210

Robert Huckfeldt is Professor of Political Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405