How can we measure media power?
Andrea Prat 22 August 2014
The potential for political influence is what most people think of when they talk about the power of the media. A new media power index, proposed in this column, aggregates power across all platforms and focuses not on markets but on voters. It measures not actual media influence but rather its potential. Using the index, the author finds that the four most powerful media companies in the US are television-based and the absolute value of the index is high. This indicates that most American voters receive their news from a small number of news sources, which creates the potential for large political influence.
The media industry is different
The media industry is undergoing a consolidation process. After the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Rupert Murdoch’s Century Fox reportedly offered to buy Time Warner. The offer was rejected, but the prospect of a merger between two media groups of such size has reignited a public debate on the dangers of excessive media concentration.
Frontiers of economic research Microeconomic regulation Politics and economics
voting, political influence, media power
How unequal is the European Parliament’s representation?
Anish Tailor, Nicolas Véron 21 May 2014
The European Parliamentary elections are conducted under rules that give voters power that varies with their nationality. This inequality is higher than in European and US national elections, as well as in large emerging-market democracies like Brazil, India, and Indonesia. Making the distribution more equal would be simple, but would require a change in the EU Treaties.
This week’s European Parliament election (22–25 May) has several unprecedented features. Most importantly, the main pan-European parties are fielding lead candidates for European Commission President. Turning the election into a presidential horse race was intended to increase electoral participation and enhance the Parliament’s democratic legitimacy, even though it remains to be seen whether voters will actually see things this way.
EU institutions Politics and economics
elections, democracy, EU, Inequality, voting, European parliament, treaty change
Will voters turn out in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections?
Owen McDougall, Ashoka Mody 17 May 2014
Turnout in the 2014 European Parliament elections is seen as a critical test for EU democracy. This column presents some predictions. Trust in the ECB – rather than in the European Parliament itself – has been associated with higher turnout in previous elections. Macroeconomic conditions are also important – where a country’s fiscal problems are greater, voters are more inclined to vote.
The extent of voter turnout in the 2014 European Parliamentary (EP) election is widely viewed as a critical test for European democracy. Turnout in the EP elections has steadily declined over three decades, from 62% in the first election in 1979 to 43% in the 2009 election (EP Liaison Office undated). There is great concern that the legitimacy of the EU is at stake should there be a further slide in voter turnout.
EU institutions Politics and economics
elections, ECB, democracy, EU, trust, voting, European parliament, turnout
Newspaper readership, civic attitudes, and economic development: Evidence from the history of African media
Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda 14 May 2014
African regions where Protestant missionaries were active had indigenous newspapers a century before other regions. This column argues, based on new research, that this difference has had lasting effects. Proximity to a mission that had a printing press in 1903 predicts newspaper readership today. Population density and light density (a proxy for economic development) is also higher today in regions nearer to missions that had printing presses. The results suggest that a well-functioning media – not Protestantism per se – was important for development.
Poor governance due to lack of political accountability is often cited as an explanation for the low level of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of political accountability can emerge when voters do not choose their candidates according to their expected performance. In sub-Saharan Africa, voters often use the ethnic profile of a candidate as an informational shortcut for the candidate’s political agenda (Ichino and Nathan 2013). As a consequence, politicians rely on tribal allegiances that deliver the votes of co-ethnics irrespective of performance (Casey 2013).
Development Economic history Institutions and economics Politics and economics
development, democracy, Africa, religion, technology, media, voting, accountability
How to address inequality
Jeffrey Frankel 29 April 2014
Awareness of inequality is rapidly rising. This column argues that commentators should focus on identifying the policies that are best suited to improving income distributions efficiently, and the politicians that support them. It is not sufficient to sound the alarm about inequality and the political reach of the super-rich.
Inequality has received a lot of attention lately, particularly in two arenas where it had not previously received as much: American public debate and the International Monetary Fund. A major driver is the observation in the US that income inequality has now returned to the extreme levels of the Gilded Age (Piketty 2014).
Politics and economics Poverty and income inequality
US, Inequality, redistribution, voting, Political Economy
Say on pay in the UK: Modest effect, even after the crisis
Ian Gregory-Smith, Steve Thompson, Peter Wright 24 March 2014
In 2003, the UK adopted a ‘say on pay’ policy, whereby quoted companies’ executive compensation offers have to be put to a shareholder vote. This column presents evidence that this policy has had a relatively modest impact on executive pay. A 10% increase in compensation is associated with an increase in shareholder dissent against the proposal of just 0.2%. However, remuneration committees representing the more highly rewarded CEOs are quite sensitive to dissent, provided it exceeds a critical threshold of about 10%. Shareholders do not appear more anxious about pay since the crisis.
The extensive academic literature on the growth of executive compensation has tended to polarise around one of two positions: the rents-capture view and the optimal contracting approach. These analyses lead to very different positions on the value of a ‘say on pay’ policy:
Frontiers of economic research Labour markets Microeconomic regulation Poverty and income inequality
voting, UK, executive pay, corporate governance, Executive compensation
What voters reward: Evidence from the 2009 Indian parliamentary elections
Poonam Gupta, Arvind Panagariya 17 March 2014
Do voters care about economic outcomes? Evidence on this question, especially in the context of developing countries, is rather scant. This column reports the findings from analysis of the 2009 parliamentary elections in India. Voters favoured parties that delivered high growth in their states and rejected those that did not. The authors also find that voters preferred candidates who had served in the parliament before, were wealthy, educated, and affiliated with a large party.
Despite the intuitive appeal of the idea that good economic outcomes such as sustained rapid growth should help incumbents win elections, evidence on it has been scant, especially from developing countries. In one notable exception, Brender and Drazen (2008) use a comprehensive cross-country dataset spanning over 74 developed and developing democratic countries and 350 election episodes to examine whether GDP growth during the term in office or in the election year helps incumbents win elections.
Politics and economics
democracy, India, voting
Voting to tell others
Stefano DellaVigna, John List, Ulrike Malmendier, Gautam Rao 05 March 2014
The question of why people vote has intrigued social scientists for decades. This column discusses a model of voting due to social image motivations and presents empirical tests based on it. In this model, an individual would be motivated to vote because of an anticipation of being asked after the election. The results of a conducted field experiment suggest that the anticipation of being asked provides a large motivation to vote. In fact, the motivation is as large as being paid $5-15 to vote. Applying this methodology to other elections would provide more rigorous evidence about the validity of the proposed model.
Why do people vote? This seemingly simple question has intrigued social scientists for decades. The classical model of pivotal voting proposes that individuals vote because they may affect the outcome of the election (Downs 1957). But any single individual becomes very unlikely to affect the outcome of a large election, and yet people still vote in congressional and presidential elections.
Politics and economics
voting, social image motivation to vote
Guns and votes: The victory of an intense minority against an apathetic majority
Laurent Bouton, Paola Conconi, Francisco J Pino, Maurizio Zanardi 09 December 2013
Despite support from around 90% of US citizens, expanded background checks for gun purchases failed in the US Senate. This ‘gun-control paradox’ can be explained by the fact that the intensity of voters’ preferences differs across policy issues, and voters only have one vote with which to hold politicians accountable on a bundle of issues. A model incorporating these features predicts Senate voting behaviour very well. Senators closer to re-election are more likely to vote pro-gun, and only Democrats ‘flip-flop’ on guns.
On 14 December 2012, 20 children and six staff members were murdered in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Building on the surge in public support for gun control that followed this tragedy, President Obama announced the formation of a task force to provide immediate recommendations on how to introduce new gun regulations to end the “epidemic of gun violence shaking the nation.”
Politics and economics
voting, gun control
Happiness and voting
Federica Liberini, Eugenio Proto, Michela Redoano 15 November 2013
Retrospective voting – voting for incumbents if one’s situation has improved under the politician’s watch – is a well-established pattern. This column shows that this pattern also applies when ‘improvement’ is measured by a subjective measure of well-being. Among the stark results discussed is the finding that newly widowed women are 10% less likely to be pro-incumbent than the control group.
The idea that states should support and protect citizens’ wellbeing goes back at least two hundred and fifty years – as stated in the 1776 US Declaration of Independence.1
Frontiers of economic research Politics and economics
happiness, voting, subjective wellbeing