The Impact of Commercial Television on Turnout and Public Policy: Evidence from Norwegian Local Politics

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Ellingsen, Sebastian, Øystein M. Hernæs




Journal of Public Economics

vol 159, 1-15


We investigate the impact of commercial television on political participation and local policy outcomes. Exploiting a geographically staggered expansion of cable television after the liberalization of Norwegian broadcasting in 1981, we show that higher cable television penetration signi cantly reduced turnout in municipal elections. Using individual-level data, we nd that cable television coverage had a negative e ect on the extent to which respondents were exposed to political information through mass media. The e ect is more pronounced for individuals that on average watch more cable television; namely individuals with fewer years of schooling. Consistent with an increased di erence in political participation and exposure to information between more and less educated groups, we nd that commercial television led to reduced public spending and increased the share spent on education. The results are evidence that commercial mass media can in uence electoral politics by reducing political participation and exposure to information of its target audiences.


D70, H72, L82


Media, Voting, Inequality, Local government, Public Economics