Do newspaper endorsements matter?

posted at 12:11 pm on October 30, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

They certainly matter to campaigns, and to the media — but do they matter to voters?  If so, as the editors at Investors Business Daily point out, it’s another indication that Team Obama is about to have a very bad day next Tuesday:

The Register isn’t the only newspaper to abandon Obama this year after eagerly endorsing four years ago.

In fact, of those major metro dailies that have announced their picks, more than one in five that had previously backed Obama are now pushing Romney, according to a tally by the American Presidency Project.  Most, like the Register, had a history of endorsing Democratic presidents. …

Newspaper endorsements may not mean much these days, given their declining readership and influence. But they clearly show the disaffection many liberals have with Obama’s economic stewardship.

And they are a good indicator of where the political momentum lies, which as the election draws near, is clearly with Romney.

I’d agree that this is a pretty good metric for gauging the reaction of the print media to the election, and to Barack Obama’s incumbency.  A 20% flip rate seems pretty substantial, given the overwhelming tilt to the left that most dailies have, especially in their editorial boards.  Even some of those who have stuck with Obama — the Washington Post comes to mind — didn’t have much praise for the man they ended up backing.

On the other hand, the plethora of e-mails touting these endorsements got me thinking about the value of newspaper endorsements in the Internet Age.  Aren’t these somewhat of an anachronism — and more potentially damaging to the newspapers themselves than to those candidates whom they didn’t endorse?  In my column for The Week, I argue that editorial boards should take a lesson from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

We live in a far different political and intellectual environment than we did 40 years ago, or even 20 years ago, when the daily newspaper on the front doorstep was the sign of an informed household. Even further gone are the days in most metropolitan areas when which newspaper sat on a stoop indicated the political and social leaning of the household. The newspaper no longer has that kind of cachet; most people get their news a la carte online, from a variety of sources and perspectives, especially when it comes to national and international news. News consumers consider themselves more informed than their local editorial board, and their own perspective as more valuable, especially as they progress from formerly low-information voters to sophisticated followers of current events.

It’s not even clear why newspapers would want to endorse candidates, especially for national office. Instead of influencing their readership in the election, these endorsements tend to serve as little more than red flags to those readers who disagree with them — and undermine their credibility thereafter. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reached that very conclusion last week, choosing not to endorse any candidate for president or Senate after receiving a deluge of criticism for its endorsement of Scott Walker in the recall election.  Editorial page editor David Haynes explained, “[T]his idea of independence also is a critical piece of our thinking on this matter. … It makes little sense to put our independence at risk during the election season.” While a case could be made for the importance of editorial endorsements in local races, where even the most well-informed voter on national issues might have little insight, the endorsements at the national level would negate the effectiveness of local endorsements by alienating a significant part of their readership.

The Des Moines Register endorsement kerfuffle demonstrated another danger for editorial boards. The day after going public with the fight over whether Obama’s remarks should be on the record, the paper’s front page featured both candidates presented in remarkably different ways. Romney’s picture showed him smiling and shaking hands with an enthusiastic crowd, with a headline underneath remarking on his optimism. Next to that, Obama was pictured scowling over his shoulder in a crowd that appeared decidedly less enthusiastic, with a headline that focused on his negative campaigning from the stump. While the Register might have run that page regardless of the dispute with the president, it nonetheless had the distinct flavor of payback — and arguably undermined their decision to switch from their 2008 endorsement of Obama to Romney in 2012.

The Des Moines Register flap was a good story not because of the endorsement itself, but because of the flap surrounding it.  I’ve mostly passed on writing about newspaper endorsements otherwise, even as my inbox fills with announcements of them, because I just don’t find them newsworthy any longer.  The only potential value I see in continuing these editorial endorsements is that they are the clearest statement of political action by newspapers we’ll otherwise see … and that may be good for readers, but probably counterproductive for editorial boards.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Think I said this a while back. Neat when they flip for us. Otherwise, liberal papers endorsing liberals are a given.

hawkdriver on October 30, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Not in the case of NYT, WaPo and the Boston Grope.

bayview on October 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM

A sure sign that O is in trouble. The next question will be, “Do elections really matter?”

Ufdaubet on October 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Romney’s going to get the endorsement of 75 percent of New York City’s major newspapers (Post, WSJ and the Daily News), but I still don’t think the city’s voters are going for him. But when a paper does switch from one candidate to another, especially after the cult-like praise Obama received from many editorialists in their 2008 endorsements, it does catch a few peoples’ attention.

jon1979 on October 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM

But….But…But…..The Chicago Tribune endorsed Obama for re-election! That has to count for something, right?

RIGHT!

pilamaye on October 30, 2012 at 12:15 PM

They only matter on who I choose to boycott or discount. Or in today’s lingo refuse to click on.

txmomof6 on October 30, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Reading newspaper editorials is tangentially related to my job… so let me be the first to say… they only matter if they are unexpected and/or run against the general stance of a newspaper’s editorial board.

Does it matter that the New York Times endorsed Obama? Not in the least, everyone and their mother knew they’d endorse Obama. Everyone knows they’re going to endorse the Democrat in 2016, regardless of who it is or who the Republican candidate is.

Same goes with the New York Post with regards to Romney.

When a reliably liberal newspaper like the DMR endorses the Republican… that matters. If a conservative newspaper were to endorse the Democrat… that matters.

Red Cloud on October 30, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Matters to me to see the O bunch squirm and squeal how much it doesn’t matter.

tru2tx on October 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Why must we always engage in these, “Does [insert whatever event] matter?” I would venture to say that in a close election, EVERYTHING matters. This question was asked about the conventions (and yes, it mattered, as evidenced by Obama’s surge in the polls after the DNC). It was also asked for the debates (and yes, once again, it mattered, as evidenced by Romney’s sustained lead in the polls as a result). So, yes, things matter. Stop asking.

LiquidH2O on October 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Absent the notable endorsements Romney received over the last week, this question would not have been asked.

Droopy on October 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Romney’s going to get the endorsement of 75 percent of New York City’s major newspapers (Post, WSJ and the Daily News), but I still don’t think the city’s voters are going for him. But when a paper does switch from one candidate to another, especially after the cult-like praise Obama received from many editorialists in their 2008 endorsements, it does catch a few peoples’ attention.

jon1979 on October 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Glad I’m not the only person that thinks the Daily News is going to endorse Romney. They’re kind of a swing board in my view. They trend very conservative on some issues and very liberal on other issues, so they’re sometimes hard to draw a bead on, but man have they ever been savage with Obama lately.

As far as the WSJ, they haven’t officially endorsed any presidential candidate since I think Hoover, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them officially endorse Romney. Not that it matters, they’ve been going after Obama with guns blazing for months.

Red Cloud on October 30, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Most newspapers are influenced more by their readers and potential readers than the other way around. IOW, if they sense candidate A is the popular choice in their circulation area, they’ll usually endorse candidate A.

cartooner on October 30, 2012 at 12:19 PM

At some point, newspapers realize that their reading public hold them in poor regard. some will then attempt to survive. Others care little for their shareholders. The ideology of leftism is far more important to these than survival. The NYT and WP are in that category. Both have become mere newsletters for the left. Both have been shedding advertisers by the buckets for decades with their anti-business reporting and support for anti-business agendas.

pat on October 30, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Yea, Newspaper endorsements aren’t exactly what they used to be, no doubt. They do have some readership in the older demographic, that hold onto that form. Is that older demo, still undecided or will they change their vote, due to an endorsement by the hometown rag? There has to be a small percentage still, that will be moved. Is it a percentage large enough to make a difference in an election anymore, well it’s not as likely as it used to be, that’s for sure. It really depends on how tight the race was to begin with. the tighter the race the more effect the endorsement will have, only because it will take fewer people to change or affect that particular race.
Addendum on the fight against the Obama Enemy media: http://paratisiusa.blogspot.com/2012/09/an-open-letter-to-those-who-should-know.html?spref=tw

God Bless America!

paratisi on October 30, 2012 at 12:21 PM

After four years of daily endorsements of Obama via their reporting (or not reporting as in Benghazi), the editorial endorsement of him by the vast majority of newspapers is but a redundancy.

TXUS on October 30, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Given that 98% of newspapers are leftist, when they endorse a Republican it indicates they’re having a temper tantrum about the leftist candidate.

Does it actually affect the way anyone votes? Highly unlikely.

CorporatePiggy on October 30, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Next Tuesday…one week from today.

Schadenfreude on October 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM


Do newspaper endorsements matter?

…used too!…but for the last couple of decades now… you have to consider the source…

KOOLAID2 on October 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM

When a reliably liberal newspaper like the DMR endorses the Republican… that matters. If a conservative newspaper were to endorse the Democrat… that matters.

Red Cloud on October 30, 2012 at 12:16 PM

This.

It only matters if they break stride with their usual endorsement pattern.

portlandon on October 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM

jon1979 on October 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Red Cloud on October 30, 2012 at 12:19 PM
And Zuckerman had spoken out harshly against Barry.

bayview on October 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM

What’s a newspaper?

ConservativeLawStudent on October 30, 2012 at 12:29 PM

I just LOVE that screencap.

gophergirl on October 30, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Do newspaper endorsements matter?

Only when they’re based in reality. Or when they endorse a lib.

At least that’s what Steffie Cutter told me.

BacaDog on October 30, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Next Tuesday…one week from today.

Schadenfreude on October 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM

That ad needs to be promoted to front page. Did you tip to Ed and Allah?

My God if a Conservative version of that ad was out, all He11 would break loose.

hawkdriver on October 30, 2012 at 12:32 PM

What’s a newspaper?

ConservativeLawStudent on October 30, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Beat me to it.

Bitter Clinger on October 30, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Where is Obama? Is he hiding in a bunker? When will he get the subways running again?

faraway on October 30, 2012 at 12:34 PM

I think newspapers can be helpful in getting rid of bad judges and in the smaller local races where many people have a hard time figuring out who to vote for. But the papers have to have some credibility for people to listen.

STL_Vet on October 30, 2012 at 12:35 PM

Addendum on the fight against the Obama Enemy media: http://paratisiusa.blogspot.com/2012/09/an-open-letter-to-those-who-should-know.html?spref=tw

God Bless America!

paratisi on October 30, 2012 at 12:21 PM

..speaking about editorials not being of significant, PLEASE update your blog with new material and then plug it. This is getting tiresome.

The War Planner on October 30, 2012 at 12:35 PM

Had MSM newspapers had not loooooong ago relegated themselves to functioning entirely as a propaganda machine for leftists and other enemies of America, maybe they would still matter.

However, the internet and the information age has exposed them for who and what they are – the treasonous fifth-column enemy of personal liberty and We The People. We see how newspapers and broadcasters lie, obfuscate, twist and distort information to promote statist totalitarian goals every day. We know they are liars and propagandists.

Apparently they still think we don’t know who and what they are.

Harbingeing on October 30, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Do buggy whips make cars go faster…?

d1carter on October 30, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Schadenfreude on October 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM

That ad needs to be promoted to front page. Did you tip to Ed and Allah?

My God if a Conservative version of that ad was out, all He11 would break loose.

hawkdriver on October 30, 2012 at 12:32 PM

..was on Drudge. Along with that “first time” broad and the “Children of the Corn” Choir, they now have an inter-generational trifecta of revulsion.

The War Planner on October 30, 2012 at 12:40 PM

..hey, if paratisi can do it, I can too!

The War Planner on October 30, 2012 at 12:41 PM

I can’t even remember when I last purchased a print newspaper!

CoffeeLover on October 30, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Where is Obama? Is he hiding in a bunker? When will he get the subways running again?

faraway on October 30, 2012 at 12:34 PM

I’ve been wondering what kind of production they will show him in…I bet it will be very presidential…heh.

d1carter on October 30, 2012 at 12:45 PM

One could also ask if blog endorsements matter much, either. I notice, for example, that Rick Santorum didn’t win the GOP nomination in spite of receiving the much-coveted Hot Air endorsement. Ace over at AoS was a Rick Perry guy (as I was), at least until Perry’s debate implosion. During a national election, politically-oriented blogs inherently already endorse a candidate of one persuasion or another based upon the orientation of the blog, with readership largely confined to those already predisposed to vote along conservative or liberal partisan lines.

Thus, a Hot Air endorsement of a given candidate isn’t likely to move the needle any more than an endorsement coming from The Shelbyville News. Why then is the hardcopy newspaper’s endorsement somehow less signficant or meaningful than your own?

troyriser_gopftw on October 30, 2012 at 12:46 PM

..was on Drudge. Along with that “first time” broad and the “Children of the Corn” Choir, they now have an inter-generational trifecta of revulsion.

The War Planner on October 30, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Yes, hawk…

A decent president would distance himself from both, alas, TWP.

Schadenfreude on October 30, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Where is Obama? Is he hiding in a bunker? When will he get the subways running again?

faraway on October 30, 2012 at 12:34 PM

He’s crying into his pingpong balls.

Schadenfreude on October 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Do newspaper endorsements matter?

NO. I’m going back to another thread.

I can’t even remember when I last purchased a print newspaper!

CoffeeLover on October 30, 2012 at 12:42 PM

I purchased a copy just this week! I use them to line my bird cage:) I picked this one because it had a picture of obama on the front page. I took great satisfaction in placing it “face up” in the birdcage:) Plus, the shyt thats on them, is better than the shyt thats in them.

kcd on October 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM

I purchased a copy just this week!

kcd on October 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM

..proudly dead-tree media free for over four years!

Hey, one day at a time, folks, one day at a time!

The War Planner on October 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM

kcd on October 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM

omg, there went my coffee!!!

CoffeeLover on October 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM

I think that endorsements are a good measure of momentum and how people will vote. Romney getting these high profile is another hint of momentum.

Illinidiva on October 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Twitchy has the Situation Room photo….very presidential. Where is the Benghazi pic?

d1carter on October 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Isn’t that the truth.

CoffeeLover on October 30, 2012 at 12:57 PM

I don’t think newspaper endorsements have much effect locally anymore. However, when they run “man bites dog” editorials, such as endorsing the Conservative/Republican over the Liberal/Democrat, they become momentum drivers. Not because dead trees are an effective medium, but that the editorials become viral content sucked into the Internet stewpot.

Such content becomes meme, and meme fosters momentum, then momentum swings votes.

JonPrichard on October 30, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Newspapers no longer influence public opinion, they reflect it. Of course, the selective reporting of fact, and the biased interpretation of fact, can distort the perception of those few whose only news source is the old print and network media. But the internet age has slowed and, in some instances stopped this ability. At a certain point, to maintain some credibility, the old print and network media must report the truth.

Newspapers, like everything else in the internet age, are now niche products, designed to appeal to a particular segment of consumers. In order to sell papers, the owners and editorial staff cannot allow their product to differ substantially from the expectations of their target market. To do so is to court ruin; just ask Oprah Winfrey, whose premature endorsement of Barack Obama tanked her company and her career. She has never recovered.

That so many papers are endorsing Romney, refusing to endorse, or endorsing Obama tepidly indicates that these editors sense a landslide for Romney, and don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of history. If they thought it was going to be close, they would stick to their guns. A squeaker for Romney would make it easy to make excuses for being wrong. You can’t run from being wrong on a landslide.

This is a center-right country and Romney is a center-right candidate. The electorate saw this in the first debate, and is now moving towards Romney in droves. Obama’s entire strategy this election has been to paint Romney as a worse choice than he. Romney is not, and the results on Tuesday will show this.

In 2008, Obama was elected as a smart, assured, center-left candidate against an incompetent, doddering old warmonger and his right wing extremist VP. Four years later, Obama has been revealed, not only as an extreme leftist, but a singularly incompetent one at that. He doesn’t stand a chance.

Mr. Arkadin on October 30, 2012 at 1:02 PM

The only reason The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn’t endorse Obama was there is a Wisconsin Favorite Son on the ticket for Romney. As for not endorsing Tammy Baldwin, well that’s just common sense. Outside of Dane County that chick is seen as a total nutcase, which she is!!

Deano1952 on October 30, 2012 at 1:02 PM

If the WSJ endorses Romney and the NYT endorses Obuma, No.
But, if you see a lot of historically Democrat endorsers endorse the Republican or vice versus then that is a sign to be noticed.

And that can shift some voters at some percent.

When many newspaper switch sides, it basically gives permission for voters to switch parties.

I think this is going to be an epic blow out.

See ya, you Marxist Islamophile.

esnap on October 30, 2012 at 1:05 PM

OT: Something absolutely must be done about the ads here. This is the only website I have problems with – ads that start up with volume on – sometimes 2 at once. I’ve been a HA member since Day 1 and have always had a window with HA open. The constant need to re-login has always been a hassle, but this ad stuff makes me not even want to bother.

Connie on October 30, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Newspaper Endorsements matter, at least in-so-much when the endorsement is a flipping from its perceived ideological tilt. The reason is because when this happens, it does affect enthusiasm. Lets say you’re a liberal in a swing state, that thrives off the editorials of a left wing paper. If you open that paper and see them endorse the conservative candidate, it may not flip that person, but it will eat into their enthusiasm. It creates the impression that the tide is against your candidate, and slightly reduces the likelihood that person will vote.

So, yes, it does matter, but only a little, and probably only within that papers area of circulation.

WolvenOne on October 30, 2012 at 1:08 PM

Twitchy has the Situation Room photo….very presidential. Where is the Benghazi pic?

d1carter on October 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Valerie Jarrett’s in charge in that one, so you will never see the pictures.

slickwillie2001 on October 30, 2012 at 1:12 PM

While I think Romney will win this election handidly;

How ironic would it be if a close win in Iowa handed Romney the necessary electoral votes to clinch the presidency.

Obama might live to regret his DMR interview…LOL

Norwegian on October 30, 2012 at 1:14 PM

No.
Just used in conversation to others voting for the other side, as in: “Well, the (XXX-newspaper) endorsed my candidate, so I must be doing something right!”
The other person does not care and still votes how they were always going to vote…

albill on October 30, 2012 at 1:21 PM

I completely agree Ed! Endorsement from print is ho-hum who cares anymore.

Kini on October 30, 2012 at 1:23 PM

The only potential value I see in continuing these editorial endorsements is that they are the clearest statement of political action by newspapers we’ll otherwise see … and that may be good for readers, but probably counterproductive for editorial boards.

But I want to know who Hotair endorses!

redeye on October 30, 2012 at 1:37 PM

It matters when the liberal media actually gives conservatives a fair shake.

As much as we love to believe that the MSM has become completely irrelevant, the truth is, if it wasn’t for the media, Democrats would be screwed beyond belief. That’s really the only thing that’s been propping them up for the last few decades.

BradTank on October 30, 2012 at 1:58 PM

What’s a newspaper?

ConservativeLawStudent on October 30, 2012 at 12:29 PM

It’s a funnily colored large-sheet paper I use to line my guinea pig cage. Too bad it doesn’t absorb as much crap as needed because it already is full of it when it arrives to my mailbox.

Archivarix on October 30, 2012 at 2:00 PM

What’s a newspaper?

ConservativeLawStudent on October 30, 2012 at 12:29 PM

I’m glad someone else doesn’t know. It makes me feel less stupid.

thuja on October 30, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Where is Obama? Is he hiding in a bunker? When will he get the subways running again?

faraway on October 30, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Someone needs to do a Hitler Bunker Movie scene redux with verbage from Obama in his “bunker” complaining about all of this.

Zomcon JEM on October 30, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Do newspaper endorsements matter?

YES = when they support d-cRAT socialists
NO = when they support Republican
HELL NO = when they support conservatives.

TeaPartyNation on October 30, 2012 at 4:03 PM

The DMR endorsement was big.

He is 3D now.

He is …..

President Romney.

KirknBurker on October 30, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Zomcon JEM on October 30, 2012 at 2:44 PM

There are going to be like 100 “Downfall” Youtubes of Hitler’s meltdown on O losing next week.

I’m pilfering corn in the fields here in Iowa now for the feast next week.

KirknBurker on October 30, 2012 at 4:38 PM