Do Newspaper Endorsements Matter?

Experts, voters doubt it

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 29, 2012 9:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – Both presidential candidates are racking up endorsements as the election draws near, prompting the AP to wonder whether editorial boards' selections do much to sway voters these days. Says a political scientist: "The short answer is no." Still, "at this stage in the campaign, you're looking for every edge you can get, even if it's a microscopic edge," he notes. A swing voter in Florida—where the Orlando Sentinel backs Mitt Romney and the Tampa Bay Times supports President Obama—doubts the endorsements have "any influence at all."

When papers already have a history of leaning left or right, "I discount it, because I think, `Of course they're endorsing that candidate," she says. But "if a traditionally left paper endorses Romney, or a traditionally right paper endorses Obama, that matters, because people go, 'Huh, that's curious,'" says a Republican strategist. Case in point: The Des Moines Register's support for Romney. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which isn't endorsing a candidate, calls such endorsements "a relic of a time when every town had more than one newspaper." But plenty of newspapers are still making their cases: Yesterday saw 10 endorsements for Obama, including swing-state rags the Detroit Free Press and Toledo Blade, and 14 for Romney, among them the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Florida Times-Union.

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns at the Celina Fieldhouse in Celina, Ohio, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns at the Celina Fieldhouse in Celina, Ohio, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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