“You don’t enter the media business to get rich”: Does a change in the political orientation of a newspaper affect voting behavior in immigration referenda?

Abstract

When it came out that Donald Trump was interested in creating his own news channel, his name was only the last one to be added to a considerable list of politicians that are involved in media companies. Maybe unsurprisingly so, since a number of recent studies suggests that it could pay off: the endorsement of a candidate by newspapers and TV channels can influence voters’ political preferences and voting behavior. This paper expands the research on media effects to another political outcome (referendum votes) and another context (‘hostile’ take over). It does so by exploiting a natural experiment in Switzerland to analyze if a change in the political orientation of a regional newspaper affected the support for the anti-immigration side in referendum votes. Using the case of a (hostile) newspaper take-over by a well-known right-wing politician, I show that voters’ support for anti-immigration positions is not affected by the change in the news- paper’s orientation. Thus, this paper presents evidence that a direct involvement of politicians in media companies does not pay off if locals are opposed to the take over—neither economically nor politically.