Following the Opinion Leaders?: The Dynamics of Influence among Media Opinion, the Public, and Politicians

Philip Habel, Southern Illinois University


Media elites strive to shape the policy preferences of their audience through the publication of their opinions. Scholars, however, have not fully distilled whether the opinions communicated by media elites are successful in moving the public or politicians toward their preferred policy position, or whether media is responsive to these actors. This paper offers a means of assessing media influence. We provide measures of the policy preferences of two leading newspaper editorial pages, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and we employ these scales in a dynamic time series analysis. We find that the announced positions of the media have minimal influence. Rather, we find evidence of a movable media, where media opinion shifts in response to changes in the policy positions of politicians.