Sunday, October 26, 2008

Map of Newspaper Endorsements of Presidential Candidates

BOULDER, Colorado -- The folks over at have put together this data set of newspaper endorsements from the upcoming presidential election. The data is presented in an interactive map, which also displays the endorsements from the 2004 election.

However, I do see a problem with one of their conclusions. They attribute the presence of papers supporting Republican candidates in traditionally liberal areas, and vice versa, to a market effect. Papers like the Boston Herald and the New York Post are appealing to a sizable conservative niche in their respective markets, while the major papers of record - in this case the Globe and the Times - are liberal.

This fails to acknowledge the importance of history. Market forces may certainly be responsible for the fact that some large cities have two major papers, and these tend to have opposing editorial stances. However, many cities have only one daily, and that paper's leanings may be difficult to predict based on regional voting patterns. Smaller markets tend to have only one paper - for example, the Hartford Courant has traditionally endorsed Republicans, despite Connecticut's overwhelming support for Democrats. In the past, cities supported many more daily papers. They disappeared for a variety of reasons, but with circulation dwindling everywhere, other market forces besides a paper's political slant will likely determine which survive and which do not.

They do make a good point that the party split falls largely along the rural/urban divide; major newspapers are by design an urban phenomenon, which may explain some of the lopsided support for Obama, even in safe Republican states. So, a paper's endorsement may not at all reflect the political posture of the region that it serves. What this map should show you is that newspaper endorsements are not a reliable indicator of election success, either within a particular state or nationwide. But it does serve to illustrate the absurdity of the red state/blue state paradigm, which seeks to create reified political divisions between people and regions where none really exist. It is still a pretty interesting map that can also tell you a lot about the perhaps-soon-to-be-extinct newspaper industry.

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