Too often, political science journals publish articles focused on questions too distantly connected to real-world political phenomena. It is a modern sort of scholasticism, as my friend Professor Lawrence Mead terms it, that heavily utilizes mathematical models to ponder the existent literature on a topic.

So it was with great pleasure to find this article in the October 2014 copy of the Journal of Politics. Mssrs. Joshua Clinton and Ted Enamorado, of Vanderbilt University and Princeton University, respectively, employ statistical analysis that is not comprehensible by the average reader. But they do so to investigate an interesting empirical question: “whether position-taking behavior in Congress and the likelihood of reelection is affected by the national news media.”

The authors find that incumbent House members became “slightly less likely to support President Clinton” in districts where Fox News began broadcasting than similar representatives in similar districts where Fox News was not broadcast. For a member of Congress, the shift took a couple of years subsequent to the arrival of Fox News in his or her district, and it might well have been nothing more than rhetorical posturing in the run-up to reelection. The authors also found that Fox News did not affect whether an incumbent was reelected.

Thus, the take-away affirms that members of Congress, not surprisingly, will tack to the wind. (And in practice, I must add, politicians tend to use media as a proxy for the electorate.)

Read more at (subscription required). An earlier version of the paper may be found at

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