The impact of television market size on voter turnout in American elections

Scott L. Althaus, Todd C. Trautman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The turnout literature has identified individual, social, and institutional factors that increase citizen voting. Our article shows that local television market size also affects turnout. Larger television markets tend to give disproportionate attention to higher-level races involving statewide or national offices. Because voters in larger markets should be exposed to less information about the lower-ticket races in which they are eligible to vote, we expect market size to affect levels of turnout. This article tests market size impact using a novel combination of aggregate turnout data for local voting areas, census data giving contextual information about these areas, and data detailing the boundaries of local television media markets. Using the Record of American Democracy data set, our aggregate-level analysis covers four election cycles (1986 to 1990) and nearly every county in the continental United States. Our analysis shows that voter turnout is negatively associated with television market size, a relationship that is stronger in midterm election years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)824-856
Number of pages33
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Designated market areas (DMAs)
  • Market size
  • Media markets
  • Political communication
  • Voter turnout

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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