Politics

2012
Matthew A. Baum. 2012. “Partisan Media and Attitude Polarization: The Case of Healthcare Reform.” In Regulatory Breakdown The Crisis of Confidence in U.S. Regulation. University of Pennsylvania Press. Publisher's Version
2011
Matthew A. Baum and Angela Jamison. 2011. “Soft News and The Four Oprah Effects.” In Oxford Handbook of American Public Opinion and the Media. Oxford University Press. Publisher's Version
2009
Matthew A. Baum and Marion Just. 2009. “Bandwagon an Underdog Effects in the 2008 Presidential Primary Campaign: A Survey Experiment ”. Publisher's Version
Matthew A. Baum and Tim Groeling. 2009. “Journalists’ Incentives and Media Coverage of Elite Foreign Policy Evaluations.” Conflict Management and Peace Science. Publisher's Version

Scholars have long recognized that public support for presidential uses of military force depends critically on elite support. Similarly, scholars have argued that the media “index” their coverage of foreign policy to reflect the responses of partisan (particularly congressional) elites. We argue that journalists' choices also play an important role by systematically (and predictably) skewing the elite rhetoric presented to the public. In particular, we argue that criticism of the president by his own party is disproportionately likely to be broadcast -- particularly in unified government -- and that such criticism should be exceptionally persuasive to citizens. To separate the media’s independent effect from that of the actual tenor of elite discourse, as presented in the news, we investigate all interviews with members of Congress on network television Sunday morning political interview shows between 1980 and 2003. We then determined which comments were selected for inclusion on the evening news and compare the characteristics of such comments to those that were not selected, both during periods immediately following major U.S. uses of military force and during “normal” periods. We find that the evening news presents a biased sample of elite rhetoric, heavily over-representing criticism of the president by his own party, while under-representing supportive rhetoric. Our findings indicate that future studies of public opinion and U.S. foreign policy must take into account the intervening role of journalists, who function as strategic, self-interested gatekeepers of public information regarding foreign policy events.

 

 

You can download a pdf version of the paper, here.

2008
Matthew A. Baum and Phil Gussin. 2008. “In the Eye of the Beholder: How Information Shortcuts Shape Individual Perceptions of Bias in the Media.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science. Publisher's Version

Research has shown that human beings are biased information processors. This study investigates an important potential example of biased information processing: when ex ante assessments of a media outlet’s ideological orientation “cause” individual’s to perceive bias.  We conduct an experiment in which subjects evaluated the content of a news report about the 2004 presidential election identified as originating from CNN, FOX or a fictional TV station.  Our results suggest that in an increasingly fragmented media marketplace, individuals not only distinguish between media outlets but, more importantly, outlet “brand names,” and the reputations they carry, function as heuristics, heavily influencing perceptions of bias in content. Individuals sometimes “create” bias, even where none exists. This suggests that assessments of media content operate on a more nuanced level than has been captured in previous research.

 

You can download this paper, in pdf format, along with a replication dataset here.

Matthew A. Baum and Philip B. K. Potter. 2008. “The Relationships Between Mass Media, Public Opinion, and Foreign Policy: Toward a Theoretical Synthesis.” Annual Review of Political Science. Publisher's Version

Democracy requires that citizens’ opinions play some role in shaping policy outcomes, including in foreign policy. Yet, while the literature on public opinion and foreign policy has made great progress over the past several decades, scholars have reached no consensus concerning what the public thinks, or thinks about, with respect to foreign policy, how it comes to hold those opinions, or whether those opinion do or should influence foreign policy. In this chapter, we first review the extensive gains in scholarly knowledge in the area of public opinion and foreign policy over the past several decades (with a particular emphasis on relatively recent work). We then suggest a framework, based on the concept of market equilibrium, aimed at synthesizing the various disparate research programs that together constitute the literature on public opinion and foreign policy. To do so, we incorporate a third strategic actor, the mass media, which we believe play a critical role alongside citizens and elites in shaping public attitudes about, and influence upon, foreign policy. Our goal is to clarify the multifaceted relationships between these actors and foreign policy outcomes.

 

You can download the current version of this chapter, in pdf format, here.

Matthew A. Baum and Tim Groeling. 2008. “Shot by the Messenger: Partisan Cues and Public Opinion Regarding National Security and War.” Political Behavior . Publisher's Version

Research has shown that messages of intra-party harmony tend to be ignored by the news media, while internal disputes, especially within the governing party, generally receive prominent coverage. We examine how messages of party conflict and cooperation affect public opinion regarding national security, as well as whether and how the reputations of media outlets matter. We develop a typology of partisan messages in the news, determining their likely effects based on the characteristics of the speaker, listener, news outlet, and message content. We hypothesize that criticism of the president by his fellow partisan elites should be exceptionally damaging (especially on a “conservative” media outlet), while opposition party praise of the president should be the most helpful (especially on a “liberal” outlet). We test our hypotheses through an experiment and a national survey on attitudes regarding the Iraq War. The results show that credible communication (i.e., “costly” rhetoric harmful to a party) is more influential than “cheap talk” in moving public opinion. Ironically, news media outlets perceived as ideologically “hostile” can actually enhance the credibility of certain messages relative to “friendly” news sources.

 

 

 

You can download this paper, in pdf format, here.

2007
Matthew A. Baum. 2007. “Soft News and Foreign Policy: How Expanding the Audience Changes the Policies.” Japanese Journal of Political Science. Publisher's Version

Since the 1980s, the mass media have changed the way they cover major political stories, like foreign policy crises, and, as a consequence, in what the public learns and believes about these events. More media outlets cover major political events than in the past, including the entertainment-oriented soft news media. When they do cover a political story, soft news shows do so differently than the traditional news media, focusing more on “human drama,” and especially the character and motivations of decision-makers, as well as individual stories of heroism or tragedy, and less on the political or strategic context, or substance, of policy debates. Consequently, many Americans who previously ignored politics now attend to some information about major political events, like wars, via the soft news media. Less politically engaged Americans who learn about major events from the soft news media are more suspicious of the motives of political leaders and less supportive of their policies than their non-soft-news-consuming, or more-politically-engaged counterparts.

Soft news, in turn, is gaining popularity around the world. Consequently, these changes have important implications for democratic politics both in the United States and abroad. Most importantly, a large number of relatively apolitical, and hence particularly persuadable, potential voters are now tuning in to politics via soft news outlets. This gives politicians an incentive to develop strategies for reaching out to soft news consumers. Such individuals care less about the nuances of policy and more about the personality of leaders and any sensational human drama that a policy, like a war, entails. Soft news consumers care less about geopolitics than about body bags. Politicians who want their votes are therefore likely to emphasize body bags rather than geopolitics. In short, the “new” media environment is changing both the style and substance of politics in democracies.

 

 

You can download this article, in pdf format, here.

2006
Matthew A. Baum. 2006. “Hard and Soft News.” In Encyclopedia of Media and Politics. Washington D.C. Congressional Quarterly Press.
Matthew A. Baum and Samuel Kernell. 2006. “How Cable Ended the Golden Age of Presidential Television: From 1969 to 2006.” In The Principles and Practice of American Politics. Congressional Quarterly Press. Publisher's Version
Matthew A. Baum and Angela S. Jamison. 2006. “The Oprah Effect: How Soft News Helps Inattentive Citizens Vote Consistently .” The Journal of Politics. Publisher's Version

Do the news media provide voters with sufficient information to function as competent democratic citizens? Many have answered “no,” citing as evidence the proliferation of entertainment-oriented “soft news.” Yet, public affairsoriented “hard” news is often unappealing to politically inattentive individuals. We argue that news “quality” depends upon how well it enables citizens to determine which candidate best fits their own preferences. In this regard, for politically inattentive citizens, we argue that soft news is more efficient than traditional hard news. Drawing on the logic of low-information rationality, we derive a series of hypotheses, which we test using the 2000 National Election Study.We find that politically inattentive individuals who consumed daytime talk shows (a popular form of soft news) were more likely than their nonconsuming, inattentive counterparts to vote for the candidate who best represented their self-described preferences. This suggests soft news can facilitate voting “competence” among at least some citizens.

 

Slate.com editor-at-large Jack Shafer wrote an article about this study, You can find it here. "UCLA Today" also did a feature story on the study, which you can find here.

You can download this paper, in pdf format, here.

supplemental appendix for this paper, including expert survey questionnaire, NES variable definitions and coding, additional discussion of several concepts addressed in the paper, as well as a variety of robustness, reliability and validity tests, is available, in pdf format, here.

2005
Matthew A. Baum. 2005. “Talking the Vote: Why Presidential Candidates Hit the Talk Show Circuit.” American Journal of Political Science, 49, 2, Pp. 213-234. Publisher's Version

In an effort to show themselves as “regular guys,” the 2000 presidential election found presidential aspirants commiserating with Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O'Donnell, Queen Latifah and Regis Philbin, trading one-liners with Jay Leno and David Letterman, discussing rap music with MTV's youthful viewers and even courting the kid (or perhaps parent) vote on Nickelodeon. This study is a preliminary assessment of the impact of entertainment-oriented talk show coverage of presidential politics, using the 2000 election as a case study.   I consider why entertainment-oriented TV talk shows might choose to cover presidential politics, why candidates choose to appear on talk shows, and who is likely to be the primary audience for such coverage. This discussion yields a series of hypotheses concerning the effects of talk show coverage of presidential politics on public views of the candidates and the campaign.   I test my hypotheses through a content analysis of campaign coverage by entertainment-oriented talk shows, traditional political talk shows, and national news campaign coverage, as well as through a series of statistical analyses employing the 2000 NES. I find that talk show coverage of presidential politics does indeed influence voter attitudes. In particular, net of partisan preferences and a variety of other demographic and political factors, voters who rely primarily on entertainment-oriented TV talk shows as a source of campaign information are more likely to find the opposition candidate “likeable,” as well as to cross party lines and vote for him, relative to their more politically aware counterparts who pay closer attention to traditional news outlets.

This article is available for download from JSTOR here.

 

You can download a zip archive containing the 2000 NES variable definitions and re-coding, as well as the content analysis data and coding form, from this article here.

2004
Matthew A. Baum. 7/25/2004. “Unconventional Channels for Today’s Conventional Politics .” San Diego Union Tribune. Publisher's Version
See also: Op-Eds, Media, Politics
Matthew A. Baum. 7/1/2004. “Can Entertainment Drive Foreign Policy? Soft News and Public Reactions to the Abu Ghraib Prisoner Abuse Scandal .” MESSAGE - internationale Fachzeitschrift für Journalismus.
See also: Op-Eds, Media, Politics
Matthew A. Baum. 2004. “Going Private: Presidential Rhetoric and the Domestic Politics of Audience Costs in U.S. Foreign Policy Crises.” Journal of Conflict Resolution. Publisher's Version

In this study, I explain why, despite the potential credibility enhancement associated with generating domestic audience costs, leaders frequently opt to “go private,” by conducting foreign policy out of the public spotlight.   I argue that leaders (in this instance U.S. presidents) are likely to prefer to forego the potential benefits of audience costs (such as enhanced credibility in the eyes of an adversary) in crises involving relatively modest strategic stakes, unless they are confident of success in a fight. There are two reasons for this. First, public scrutiny disproportionately raises the potential political price of a bad outcome, thereby decreasing a leader's willingness to incur a large political risk for a relatively small strategic or political gain. Second, the reactions of the domestic “audience,” once a leader seeks to engage them, is not entirely predictable. Hence, leaders' efforts to generate audience costs can sometimes backfire, leading to reduced, rather than enhanced, credibility. I test my hypotheses with data on U.S. behavior in all international crises between 1946 and 1994.   My results show that when U.S. national security interests in a crisis are modest, American presidents are indeed less likely to speak publicly about potential adversaries, unless they are quite confident of success if a fight ensues.

You can download a zipped excel spreadsheet containing the data for this article here.

If you or your institution subscribe to Ingenta, you can download a pdf copy of this article here.

Matthew A. Baum. 2004. “How Public Opinion Constrains the Use of Force: The Case of Operation Restore Hope.” Presidential Studies Quarterly. Publisher's Version

Most previous research on the influence of domestic politics on international conflict behavior treats public opinion as endogenous to political institutions, leaders’ preferences, or both. In contrast, I argue that public opinion is more accurately characterized as partially exogenous. I further argue that, partly as a consequence, public scrutiny can inhibit U.S. presidents from using force as a foreign policy tool, particularly when the strategic stakes in a dispute are relatively modest. The literature on domestic audience costs, in turn, holds that public scrutiny may enhance a democratic leader’s credibility in the eyes of a potential adversary, thereby increasing his likelihood of victory in a dispute. Yet, it also raises the potential political price of a bad outcome. Democratic leaders are therefore cross-pressured by the simultaneous advantages and disadvantages of public scrutiny. As a preliminary test of the theory, I conduct a plausibility probe of the influences of public opinion on the decision making of Presidents Bush and Clinton with respect to the 1992-1994 U.S. intervention in Somalia. I find that only by considering the constraining effect of public scrutiny can we fully understand these two presidents’ policies regarding Somalia.

You can download a pdf copy of this article here.

2002
Matthew A. Baum. 4/1/2002. “Making Politics Fun. What Happens When Presidential Candidates Hit the Talk Show Circuit?” Presidency Research Group Report.
See also: Op-Eds, Media, Politics
Matthew A. Baum. 2002. “The Communications Revolution and the Political Use of Force.” In Technology, Development, and Democracy: International Conflict and Cooperation in the Information Age. Publisher's Version
2001
Matthew A. Baum and Samuel Kernell. 2001. “Economic Class and Popular Support for Franklin Roosevelt in War and Peace.” Public Opinion Quarterly. Publisher's Version

Presidential popularity research has treated public opinion as a monolithic entity. Yet research in economics suggests that different sectors of society may respond differently to external events. History has judged FDR as one of America's greatest leaders in large part because he maintained his popularity throughout the Depression and World War II. During this era, the primary explanatory variables in presidential popularity scholarship ? the economy and war ? assumed their most extreme values of the twentieth century. Yet FDR’s public support has received little systematic attention. Compiling partially disaggregated time-series data from 1937 to 1943, we investigate FDR’s popular support among different economic classes during both national crises. We find that Roosevelt's peacetime support divided along class lines; while during the war class divisions blurred. Roosevelt's popular support was indeed conditioned by external events, refracted through the interests of different societal groups. We conclude that public support for modern presidents should be similarly studied as the sum of opinions among heterogeneous constituencies.

This article is available for download on JSTOR here.

The time-series data for this article is available for download as an Excel file here .

2000
Sam Kernell and Sam Kernell. 1/27/2000. “The Program is in the Previews.” Los Angeles Times. Publisher's Version
See also: Op-Eds, Media, Politics

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