Congress, the press, and political accountability


Congress, the press, and political accountability

R. Douglas Arnold

(Princeton paperbacks)

Russell Sage Foundation , Princeton University Press, 2006

  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [265]-272) and index



Congress, the Press, and Political Accountability is the first large-scale examination of how local media outlets cover members of the United States Congress. Douglas Arnold asks: do local newspapers provide the information citizens need in order to hold representatives accountable for their actions in office? In contrast with previous studies, which largely focused on the campaign period, he tests various hypotheses about the causes and consequences of media coverage by exploring coverage during an entire congressional session. Using three samples of local newspapers from across the country, Arnold analyzes all coverage over a two-year period--every news story, editorial, opinion column, letter, and list. First he investigates how twenty-five newspapers covered twenty-five local representatives; and next, how competing newspapers in six cities covered their corresponding legislators. Examination of an even larger sample, sixty-seven newspapers and 187 representatives, shows why some newspapers cover legislators more thoroughly than do other papers. Arnold then links the coverage data with a large public opinion survey to show that the volume of coverage affects citizens' awareness of representatives and challengers. The results show enormous variation in coverage. Some newspapers cover legislators frequently, thoroughly, and accessibly. Others--some of them famous for their national coverage--largely ignore local representatives. The analysis also confirms that only those incumbents or challengers in the most competitive races, and those who command huge sums of money, receive extensive coverage.


List of Tables and Figures ix Acknowledgments xi 1. Legislators, Journalists, and Citizens 1 2. Explaining the Volume of Newspaper Coverage 29 3. How Newspapers Cover Legislators 64 4. Legislators as Position Takers 92 5. Legislators as Policy Makers 125 6. Legislators as Candidates 156 7. How Newspapers Differ 194 8. Effects of Newspaper Coverage on Citizens 221 9. The Press and Political Accountability 244 References 265 Index 273

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