On NPR this a.m. I heard an editor of the Arizona Republic interviewed. For the first time in its 127 years that newspaper is endorsing a Democrat for president. She said [Hillary] Clinton has flaws, but she has had the experience and temperament to be president. She said [Donald] Trump was totally unqualified. I recall she said something like Trump would be dangerous as president.
How influential is that newspaper in Arizona?
That’s an interesting question, Dad.
To start with, here’s the interview Dad mentioned:
And here’s the editorial from the Arizona Republic. As a former Arizona resident, I can tell you that the Republic is a conservative paper. The endorsement has come at a cost to the paper with lots of calls about people cancelling their subscriptions and even some death threats.
The Republic is in good company this fall. Many papers that have not endorsed a Democratic candidate for the presidency in decades (or even ever) have either endorsed Clinton, endorsed libertarian Gary Johnson, or rejected Trump. These include:
- The Dallas Morning News – Endorsed Hillary Clinton – This is the first time they have endorsed a Democrat for president in more than 75 years. The last Democrat they endorsed was Franklin Roosevelt. (Though, to be fair, they declined to make an endorsement in the 1964 race between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson.) Keep in mind, this is a very conservative paper.
- The Cincinnati Enquirer – Endorsed Hillary Clinton. This is the first Democrat for president they have endorsed in nearly a century.
- The Detroit News – endorsed libertarian Gary Johnson. (First time in 143 years where they have endorsed anyone other than the Republican presidential nominee.)
- USA Today – The national paper has long had a policy against giving presidential endorsements, but this year the paper ran an editorial declaring that Trump is “unfit for the presidency.” They did not, however, endorse any of the other candidates.
These are all news because they are unexpected. Now, the fact that the New York Times endorsed Hillary is hardly surprising. After all, they haven’t endorsed a Republican for president since Eisenhower was running.
So…. All this brings us back to a paraphrase of my dad’s question – How influential are newspaper presidential endorsements?
The answer would seem to be – It depends. If a conservative paper endorses a Republican presidential candidate or a liberal paper endorses a Democrat, a 2011 journal article finds that there is little effect. But if the endorsement is a surprise – one that goes against the paper’s usual pattern, then it can have an effect. As Vox reported back at the beginning of September when the Dallas Morning News made their endorsement:
Two political scientists, Chun-Fang Chiang, of National Taiwan University, and Brian Knight, of Brown University, studied the effect of newspaper endorsements in 2000 and 2004, using a survey that asked voters in the days leading up to the election about which newspapers they read and which candidates they preferred….
They found that when Democratic-leaning newspapers endorsed Republicans for president, or vice versa, readers were slightly more likely to support the candidate the newspaper endorsed. If newspapers endorsed the candidates that typically lined up with the editorial page’s ideology, though, they didn’t really convince anyone. The effects were greatest among people who had seen the endorsement, as you might expect, and among older readers, who were more likely to read the editorial page.
Perhaps the most telling result of all, however, is that as of today, no major newspaper has endorsed Donald Trump’s candidacy.
How much all this matter? That remains to be seen. But we continue to see that this year’s presidential cycle is truly like none other.
Hope that helps, Dad.