Newspaper endorsements: Zero for Trump
“A clear and present danger to our country.” “Xenophobia, racism, and misogyny.” “Beneath our national dignity.” These fiery condemnations may sound like they’re coming from Hillary Clinton attack ads, said David Bauder and Hillel Italie in the Associated Press, but they are actually from “longtime Republican newspapers disavowing Donald Trump.” In recent weeks, a string of stalwart conservative papers have bucked decades of tradition and either endorsed Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, or Libertarian Gary Johnson, over the Republican nominee—arguing that Trump is too divisive, too dishonest, and too reckless to be president. For The Cincinnati Enquirer, it’s the first time the paper has endorsed a Democrat for almost a century; for The Dallas Morning News, the first in at least 75 years. Even USA Today, which in its 34-year history has never taken sides in a presidential race, came out last week with a Trump “anti-endorsement”—urging readers to “resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue.”
The question is, “Do newspaper endorsements even matter?” said NPR.com. Voters don’t seem to think so: In 2008, nearly 70 percent of Pew survey participants “said that their local newspaper’s endorsement had no effect on whom they voted for.” Besides, many of the recent anti-Trump editorials were hardly “ringing endorsements for Clinton,” said Cleve Wootson Jr. in WashingtonPost.com. Nearly all expressed reservations about the Democratic nominee. Besides, Trump voters already distrust the media and disregard all criticism of their hero.
Actually, “editorials really can influence voters’ decisions,” said Margaret Sullivan in The Washington Post, as long as “the endorsements are unexpected.” Two recent studies showed that up to 2 percent of readers could shift positions in an election if the editorial in question marked a politically surprising shift—like when the Chicago Tribune, a historically conservative paper, backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Some of these editorials could backfire, though, said Andrew Joyce in Fusion.net. Newspapers in North Carolina, Virginia, and New Hampshire denounced Trump in editorials but endorsed Johnson. Polls consistently show Johnson eating into Clinton’s support in those battleground states, not Trump’s . So in the end, the “supposed principled stances” of these Republican newspapers to oppose Trump “might just help Donald Trump get elected.”