Commentary

Decline Of Local Newspapers Affects House Elections

The growing number of communities without a local newspaper means that readers are more dependent on national news. Unfortunately, that means they are less likely to be well informed about candidates in more localized races, such as those for the House of Representatives.

The issue has become more pronounced for candidates in politically moderate districts that could swing Democratic or Republican, making them key battlegrounds between the parties. With national news helping to set the agenda, there has been a decline in "ticket-splitting," which happens when a voter chooses different parties for different political offices.

"This decline in ticket-splitting means that when people are voting on their local House candidate, they’re increasingly doing that on the basis of the news they read about the national Democratic Party," David Shor, a Democratic polling and data expert, said in an interview published last week in Politico magazine.

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Speaking to Zack Stanton, digital editor of the magazine, about how demographic trends will affect the Democratic Party, Shor said ticket-splitting is likely to become even less common -- making it harder for politicians to create a more personalized brand the national debate about issues doesn't subsume.

That's a problem for candidates like Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Virginia, who narrowly won reelection in a district that mostly consists of the northern suburbs of state capital Richmond. After the election, she criticized the more progressive side of the party for using language that inspired Republican attacks.

"We need to not ever use the words 'socialist' or 'socialism' ever again, because while people think it doesn't matter, it does matter. And we lost good members because of it," she said in a call with House Democrats to discuss the election. The Democrats had failed to gain as many seats as pollsters had predicted, making their control of the House more tenuous going into the 2022 election cycle.

Spanberger also said the call to "defund the police" -- a mantra embraced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York -- was the No. 1 concern of people in her district. Unfortunately, Spanberger's more moderate message is likely to get lost among constituents when the national media focus on more divisive candidates like Ocasio-Cortez.

1 comment about "Decline Of Local Newspapers Affects House Elections".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 16, 2020 at 12:53 p.m.

    Since when were local voters truly reliant on local newspapers for information on candidates? Perhaps wishful thinking by newspapers that anyone reads all the punditry. 

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