posted by Kerri Sorrell
Newspaper endorsements are a hot topic recently, as papers all around the nation are choosing their candidates in these final campaign days. The legitimacy of endorsements on their ability to sway readers has become increasingly questioned – the majority consensus now seems to write off the influence of endorsements.
The Des Moines Register made national headlines this weekend with its endorsement of Mitt Romney (the paper hasn’t endorsed a Republican candidate since Richard Nixon). At least 4 other Iowa newspapers, including the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Quad-City Times, have also endorsed Romney. Obama has seen his lead in Iowa slip in the past few weeks – a stronghold in the 2008 election, Iowa is now a tossup. This peaked my curiosity – what did endorsement spreads look like in other battleground states? Could these endorsements predict how a battleground state would vote, even if they don’t influence those votes?
I did some research and compiled the infographic below. I looked at 8 states historically categorized as battleground states (states in which presidential elections were decided by single digits in at least 6 elections in the last 44 years). For each state, I looked at the percentage of newspaper endorsements for each candidate, and compared that data to the winner of the popular vote. I did this for the last 4 elections to determine if there was an overarching pattern between who newspapers endorse in battleground states and how those states vote. Side note: I also included national data for comparison.
What I found was interesting. From this data, I calculated that endorsements and votes in battleground states matched up in 59% of the elections (including 2012 projected data – the percentage is 75% without it). The two data fields matched up the most in Colorado, Ohio and New Hampshire (both with 75% matches), and the least in Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia and Nevada (25% matches).
Because only 59% of the endorsements matched how the state voted (again, 2012’s projected data skews this data), it’s hard to say if newspaper endorsements in battleground states can predict how a state will swing. Colorado, Ohio and Virginia are three of the most crucial states in this election – interestingly enough, all three states are projected to swing Obama, but have a higher percentage of Romney endorsements. As election day draws nearer, it will be interesting to see how these states lean, and if the 2012 endorsement records strengthen the pattern.
What patterns do you find interesting in this data? Anything that surprises you?