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Atkeson and Partin: Candidate Advertisemens, media coverage, and citizen attitudes

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Atkeson and Partin. 2001. Candidate advertisements, media coverage, and citizen attitudes: Agendas and roles of Senators and governors. Political Research Quarterly.


Federalism serves as a cue (or, as the authors say, a "frame") by which we understand which policy issues a candidate should discuss. National candidates (Senators) can discuss redistribution (Social Security, Medicaid) and national security; state candidates (governors) can discuss development (economy, education, transportation, crime/drugs, environment). This federal frame determines (1) what candidates say, (2) what the media say, and (3) what voters think.

Hypotheses and Methods

H1: Campaign ads

  • Hyp: Senators will run advertisements discussing national concerns and redistribution, governors will run advertisements discussing development.
  • Test: Sample 1986 Senate and gubernatorial races. Collect all TV ads from sampled races. Code whether they discuss an issue.

H2: News coverage

  • Hyp: Newspapers will discuss national concerns and redistribution when covering Senate campaigns; they will cover developmental concerns when covering gubernatorial campaigns.
  • Test: Sample four states that had both a Senate and gubernatorial race in 1986. Cover news coverage in the largest paper for each state and see which issues are mentioned in articles about particular candidates.

H3: Voter perceptions

  • Hyp: Voters will assign responsibility for national concerns to Senators; they will assign responsibility for development concerns to governors.
  • Test: A survey in New Mexico. Ask respondents to assign responsibility for each issue to either the governor ("1" on a seven-point scale), the Senator ("7" on the scale), or shared ("4") on the scale.


  • See Table 2. It's a logit to predict whether the candidate was for Senate (Y=0) or governor (Y=1). Most coefficients are highly significant.
  • See Table 4. Shows that voters do assign responsibility for issues either to governor or Senator.