Matthew A. Baum and Phil Gussin. 2005. “Issue Bias: How Issue Coverage and Media Bias Affect Voter Perceptions of Elections ”. Publisher's Version
It is virtually a truism in American politics that a focus on some issue areas during election campaigns, like national security or traditional values, redounds to the benefit of Republicans, while emphasis on other areas, like education or social security, benefits Democrats. Political scientists refer to this phenomenon as “issue ownership” (Petrocik 1996, Ansolabehere and Iyengar 1994). To the extent that one or the other party benefits disproportionately from media emphasis on particular issues during election campaigns, it is possible that, whether intended or not, media coverage may disproportionately benefit one or the other party. If so, this would appear to be an important potential form of bias. Baum and Gussin (2004) find that typical individuals use media outlet labels as a heuristic, to assess the validity of information presented by different outlets. Liberals tended to “find” a conservative bias in outlets they believed, ex ante, have a conservative slant, even if the content was actually from an outlet that they believed to have a liberal slant. The opposite was true for conservatives. We extend that research by investigating how issue ownership and the Hostile Media Outlet Phenomenon mediate, separately and in interaction, voter perceptions of media campaign coverage. We look at the effects of story selection on individuals’ perceptions concerning which party benefits more from media issue coverage. To do so, we conducted an experimental content analysis in which we asked subjects to code transcripts and articles, from eight major network and cable news broadcasts and newspapers, about the 2000 presidential campaign. We modified the transcripts and articles to create three distinct sets of treatment stimuli. One set correctly identified the source of the material. The second incorrectly identified the source and, in the third, all identifying elements were removed. We investigate whether individuals with differing political preferences are more or less likely to view certain issues as favorable to one or the other party, as well as the extent to which their propensity to do so is mediated by media outlets’ “brand names,” independent of the true sources of news coverage. We find that, except when they have strong prior beliefs about the ideological orientation of a media outlet, our subjects rely far more on issue ownership as a heuristic than on the hostile media heuristic. However, when they do have strong prior beliefs regarding outlet ideology, the opposite pattern prevails, with subjects relying on the hostile media heuristic to evaluate news content.
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.

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. “Circling the Wagons: Soft News and Isolationism in American Public Opinion.” International Studies Quarterly. Publisher's Version

This study investigates the differences in coverage of foreign policy by the soft and hard news media, and the implications of such differences for public attitudes regarding the appropriate U.S. role in the world. I find that, relative to traditional news outlets, the soft news media place greater emphasis on dramatic, human-interest themes and episodic frames and less emphasis on knowledgeable information sources or thematic frames, while also having a greater propensity to emphasize the potential for bad outcomes. I then develop a conceptual framework in order to determine the implications of these differences. I argue that the style of coverage of soft news outlets tends to induce suspicion and distrust of a proactive or internationalist approach to U.S. foreign policy, particularly among the least politically attentive segments of the public. I test this and several related hypotheses through multiple statistical investigations into the effects of soft news coverage on attitudes toward isolationism in general, and U.S. policy regarding the Bosnian Civil War in particular. I find that among the least politically attentive members of the public, but not their more-attentive counterparts, soft news exposurebut not exposure to traditional news sourcesis indeed associated with greater isolationism in general, and opposition to a proactive U.S. policy toward Bosnia in particular.

You can download a pdf copy of this article here.

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.

Matthew A. Baum and Tim Groeling. 2004. “What Gets Covered? How Media Coverage of Elite Debate Drives the Rally-'Round-the-Flag Phenomenon, 1979-1998. .” In In the Public Domain: Presidents and the Challenges of Public Leadership. Publisher's Version
Matthew A. Baum and David A. Lake. 2003. “The Political Economy of Growth: Democracy and Human Capital.” American Journal of Political Science. Publisher's Version

Democracy is more than just another brake or booster for the economy. We argue that there are important indirect effects of democracy on growth through public health and education. Where economists use life expectancy and education as proxies for human capital, we expect democracy will be an important determinant of the level of public services manifested in these indicators. In addition to whatever direct effect democracy may have on growth, we predict an important indirect effect through public policies that condition the level of human capital in different societies. We conduct statistical investigations into the direct and indirect effects of democracy on growth using a data set consisting of a 30-year panel of 128 countries. We find that democracy has no statistically significant direct effect on growth. Rather, we discover that the effect of democracy is largely indirect through increased life expectancy in poor countries and increased secondary education in non-poor countries.

You can download this article from JSTOR here.

A replication dataset for this article is available for download as a zipped Excel file here.

Matthew A. Baum. 2003. “Soft News and Political Knowledge: Evidence of Absence or Absence of Evidence?” Political Communication . Publisher's Version

In “Any Good News in Soft News?” Markus Prior investigates whether or not, beyond enhancing their attentiveness to select political issues, consumers also learn about politics from soft news. He presents evidence suggesting that the audience for soft news is much smaller than that for hard news, and that a self-expressed preference for soft news outlets is associated with at most sporadic gains in factual political knowledge. He concludes that the public appears to learn about politics from the soft news media at most only sporadically. In this commentary, I argue, contrary to Prior, that the audience for soft news outlets is, in fact, quite large, perhaps rivaling that for hard news. I further argue that long-term retention of factual political knowledge – the focus of Prior’s web-based survey -- is a highly restrictive definition of learning. By broadening our definition, taking into account recent insights from cognitive and social psychology concerning human information processing, it becomes possible to understand how consuming soft news might indeed be associated with learning about politics, but not necessarily with an enhanced long-term store of factual political knowledge. I present evidence that consuming soft news influences the attitudes of politically inattentive individuals and that, in at least some fairly predictable contexts, consuming soft news is also associated with enhanced factual political knowledge. I conclude that while Prior’s finding of an absence of evidence of consistent factual political knowledge effects represents a valuable contribution to our understanding of the political significance of the soft news media, it does not constitute compelling evidence of absence of any meaningful learning about politics associated with consuming soft news. Hence, as Prior acknowledges in his conclusion, it is premature to conclude that there is no good news in soft news.

You can download a pdf of this article here.

Matthew A. Baum. 2003. Soft News Goes to War: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age. Paperback, Pp. 344. Princeton University Press. Publisher's Version

The American public has consistently declared itself less concerned with foreign affairs in the post-Cold War era, even after 9/11, than at any time since World War II. How can it be, then, that public attentiveness to U.S. foreign policy crises has increased? This book represents the first systematic attempt to explain this apparent paradox. Matthew Baum argues that the answer lies in changes to television's presentation of political information. In so doing he develops a compelling "byproduct" theory of information consumption. The information revolution has fundamentally changed the way the mass media, especially television, covers foreign policy. Traditional news has been repackaged into numerous entertainment-oriented news programs and talk shows. By transforming political issues involving scandal or violence (especially attacks against America) into entertainment, the "soft news" media have actually captured more viewers who will now follow news about foreign crises, due to its entertainment value, even if they remain uninterested in foreign policy.

Baum rigorously tests his theory through content analyses of traditional and soft news media coverage of various post-WWII U.S. foreign crises and statistical analyses of public opinion surveys. The results hold key implications for the future of American politics and foreign policy. For instance, watching soft news reinforces isolationism among many inattentive Americans. Scholars, political analysts, and even politicians have tended to ignore the soft news media and politically disengaged citizens. But, as this well-written book cogently demonstrates, soft news viewers represent a largely untapped reservoir of unusually persuadable voters.

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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
Matthew A. Baum. 2002. “Sex, Lies, and War: How Soft News Brings Foreign Policy to the Inattentive Public.” American Political Science Review. Publisher's Version

This study argues that, due to selective political coverage by the entertainment-oriented, soft news media, many otherwise politically inattentive individuals are exposed to information about high-profile political issues, most prominently foreign policy crises, as an incidental byproduct of seeking entertainment. I conduct a series of statistical investigations examining the relationship between individual media consumption and attentiveness to a series of recent high-profile foreign policy crisis issues. For purposes of comparison, I also investigate several non-foreign crisis issues, some of which possess characteristics appealing to soft news programs, and others of which lack such characteristics. I find that information about foreign crises, and other issues possessing similar characteristics, presented in a soft news context, has indeed attracted the attention of politically uninvolved Americans. The net effect is a reduced disparity in attentiveness to select high profile political issues across different segments of the public.

Replication datasets for this article are available for download as zipped Excel files here

Matthew A. Baum. 2002. “The Constituent Foundations of the Rally-Round-the-Flag Phenomenon.” International Studies Quarterly. Publisher's Version

Scholars have repeatedly confirmed the phenomenon of relatively short-lived spikes in presidential approval ratings immediately following the occurrence of sudden, high profile foreign policy crisis events.  Despite the massive attention heaped upon the rally phenomenon, relatively little attention has been paid to its constituent elements. Yet, recent research has found that different groups of Americans respond differently to presidents’ activities according to their interests and attentiveness.  In this study, I disaggregate public opinion along two dimensions: political party and political sophistication. I argue that, in responding to presidential activities, particularly such high profile activities as the use of force abroad, different groups of Americans weigh various individual, contextual and situational factors differently.  I investigate all major U.S. uses of force between 1953 and 1998 and find that the propensity of different groups to "rally" does indeed vary according to individual circumstances.  Moreover, these differences are refracted through variations in the external environment.  To explain these differences, I employ two models of public opinion change.  The first emphasizes the importance of threshold effects in explaining opinion change.  That is, individuals who are closest to the point of ambivalence between approval and disapproval are most likely to change their opinion in response to external circumstances. The second emphasizes both the propensities of different types of individuals to be exposed to a given piece of information, and their susceptibility to having their opinion influenced by any additional information.  My results offer a more nuanced picture of the nature and extent of the rally phenomenon than has been available in previous studies.  My findings hold important implications for other, related, scholarly debates, such whether, and under what circumstances, the use of force can successfully divert public attention from a president's domestic political difficulties.

You can download a pdf copy of this article here.
(Note: This is an electronic version of an article published in International Studies Quarterly. Complete citation information for the final version of the paper, as published in the print edition of International Studies Quarterly  is available on the Blackwell Synergy online delivery service, accessible via the journal's website at or

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 .

Matthew A. Baum and David A. Lake. 2001. “The Invisible Hand of Democracy: Political Control and the Provision of Public Services.” Comparative Political Studies. Publisher's Version

Attention has recently focused on the distinctive foreign policies of democracies. We examine the domestic policy consequences of democracy. Building upon a model of the state as a monopoly provider of public services, we hypothesize that democratic states will seek fewer monopoly rents and produce a higher level of public services than autocracies. We also hypothesize that changes in regime type will produce fairly rapid and disproportionate effects on the level of public service provision. We test these hypotheses both cross-sectionally and over time for a variety of public service indicators. The statistical results strongly support our expectations. Democracies indeed provide significantly higher levels of public services, substantial changes in regime type appear to produce disproportionately large effects on public service provision, and the lag between changes in the level of democracy and in the level of public goods appears quite short, suggesting that periods of "democratic transition" may be more rapid than commonly supposed.

If you or your organization subscribe to Sage Publications, you can download a pdf copy of this article here.

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

Matthew A. Baum and Nathaniel Beck. 4/2000. “Trade and Conflict in the Cold War Era: An Empirical Analysis Using Directed Dyads (Working Paper) ”. Publisher's Version
See also: Working Papers
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
Matthew A. Baum. 2000. “Tabloid Wars: The Mass Media, Public Opinion, and the Decision to Use Force Abroad”. Publisher's Version

Live televised images of American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, wounded American prisoners of war paraded in front of video cameras in Iraq, Somalia and Kosovo, while their families were interviewed simultaneously on live television at home and scud missile attacks in Israel and Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War have brought foreign policy directly into America's living rooms.  By transforming complex, distant events into entertaining and compelling human dramas, these images have captured the American public's attention to a far greater extent than printed reports, photographs and tape-delayed videos ever could.   The immediate, vivid and sometimes bloody images that can now be transmitted in real time to the American people as a war unfolds make it far more difficult for the public to ignore the very real costs of war.   Scholars and journalists have documented the urgency placed by the Bush Administration during the Gulf War on achieving a quick, decisive victory, lest images of bloody American soldiers, broadcast live into America’s living rooms, erode domestic support for the war.   Simply stated, massive, real-time media coverage of U.S. military actions has become ubiquitous in the 1990s and will likely be factored into all future presidential decisions concerning the use of force.

My project addresses the evolving relationship between the mass media, public opinion and presidential decisionmaking regarding the use of force abroad.   I focus upon a key domestic political variable -- public opinion -- and the media’s role as an intervening variable between public opinion and policy decisionmaking in foreign crises.

Much of the contemporary literature holds that the media does significantly influence public opinion, and public opinion does, at least sometimes, influence policy outcomes.   Yet no theory adequately explains how changes in the media might alter public perceptions of foreign policy, nor how public opinion influences policy decisionmaking.   Have modern media technologies and practices affected Americans' fascination with and tolerance for war?   And will their reactions reduce the willingness of America's leaders to employ military force as a policy tool in the future?   These are the primary questions this dissertation ultimately seeks to answer.

The dissertation is divided into two sections.   In the first section, I challenge the conventional wisdom of an unchanging public.   I argue that past empirical findings that the political awareness of the mass public has been unaffected by the media revolution have failed to capture meaningful changes which have, in fact, occurred and which, by adjusting one’s analytical focus, can be measured.   I attempt to demonstrate that the relationship between the media and the mass public has evolved in the post-World War II era, resulting in an evolution in mass opinion concerning certain high profile political issues — most notably foreign military crises.   Simply stated, I argue that, even as the American public declares itself, in countless opinion polls, to be less concerned with foreign affairs in the Post-Cold War era, the public is nonetheless becoming more attentive to foreign policy crises.  To test my theory, I employ content analyses of media coverage of various military conflicts and statistical analyses of public opinion surveys, using nine distinct data sets, including both cross-sectional and time-series data, to demonstrate trends in public opinion and to relate increases in public attentiveness to foreign crises to the growth and diversification of the mass media.

In the second section, I turn to the implications of this trend for the future management of foreign crises by U.S. Presidents.  I argue that presidents are becoming increasingly constrained by a crisis-galvanized public.   I employ a formal model to develop hypotheses concerning how, and under what circumstances, public attentiveness will influence presidential decisionmaking during foreign crises.   I then, in subsequent chapters, conduct various tests of the model’s predictions, including statistical analyses of all U.S. foreign crises since World War II and a case study of the 1992-94 U.S. humanitarian intervention in Somalia.