Accuracy and Bias in Media Coverage of the Economy: An Analysis of Sixteen Developed Democracies

Mark Kayser (Hertie School of Governance)

May 18, 2018, 11:30–12:30


Room MF 323

IAST General Seminar


The economy influences election outcomes across a broad swath of countries, periods, institutions and contexts. How this comes about is less clear. Employing over 2 million machine-coded articles related to the economy from 32 mainstream newspapers---one left-wing and one right-wing in 16 developed countries, in 6 languages---we investigate whether the media provides the information that voters need to hold governments accountable for the economy. We find that most mainstream newspapers track the economy faithfully. Little bias in tone emerges but we do find two types of bias in the frequency of coverage: (a) newspapers report more frequently on bad than on good economic news and (b) when unemployment is high (low), opposition newspapers report slightly more frequently (infrequently) on it than pro-government newspapers. Negativity bias and, to a lesser extent, partisan bias in the frequency of coverage are present but the tone of coverage provides voters with largely accurate information.