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2020 Honors Thesis: Raya Machaca


Name:

Raya Machaca

Title of Thesis:

The Guber Grapple: Assessing the Relationship between Newspaper Coverage, Incumbency, and Gender in Gubernatorial Elections

Honors level:

High Honors (magna cum laude)

Committee:

Paloma Moyano, Stephen O'Connell, Rkia Cornell (Arabic/Middle Eastern Studies)

Abstract:

The boom in research on the political economy of media is widespread in content, from election coverage patterns to content bias, the impact of this range of effects is yet to be fully understood. This paper discusses the impact of varying quantities of newspaper coverage in the month before a gubernatorial election in influencing election outcome in terms of plurality vote distribution. For my empirical analysis, I ran a simple multiple linear regression to analyze plurality party impact for the democratic and republican parties. I compiled state-level data from the four major categories that influence election outcome: incumbency status, gender, political/economic climate, and electoral office, in addition to manually compiled data on newspaper coverage by the one of the top three most widely distributed newspapers in each state. These controls take into account environmental factors like economic climate, as measured by the Philadelphia Fed's coincident index; political attitudes, with states characterized as moralistic or traditionalistic; and internal candidate attributes like gender and party affiliation. This study is novel in that I take into account candidate structural advantage in my controls. The results show a statistically significant impact of quantity of press coverage on plurality party vote distribution. There is a clear demonstration of incumbency advantage. Additionally, the more coverage a challenger receives the less votes the opposing plurality party receives. The effect of gender on election outcome is also apparent, for when a democratic female is in the race, Republican plurality votes increase. These results imply that there are arbitrary triggers that sway plurality votes and that media coverage is paramount for unknown candidates in establishing a political platform.

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