Our second post in our series about media coverage of Occupy Wall Street. US coverage is significantly growing after new demonstrations this week-end.
***Provisional note: we will proceed soon to a relevant addition of data and a major amendment of the present empirical conclusions. Present picture changes substantially if we drop from the sample the data from New York, that shoud be considered an outlier. Because of its size, California should also be removed from the sample.
In our first post we showed media coverage by states. Now we use this information to check which are the state characteristics more sensitive to differents levels of media attention by state to Occupy movement in these initial stages.
As explained in the precedent post, we count with the information of socio-demographic and political characteristics of each state, and we have also the degree of media attention to Occupy topic by state. Remember that media attention value is estimated by the number of news about Occupy Wall Street in each state, in comparison with number of news about events unrelated with Occupy.
Now we want to check by simply descriptive statistics (and thus not properly using causal econometric analysis). The strategy we use is to split states in two groups, for every selected variable. In each group we include states with extreme cases of each variables. If there are substantial differences in terms of media attention bewteen two groups, we can guess that this variable is an underlying driver that helps to explain who and why is interested in covering news about Occupy.
Occupy Wall Street Media Coverage Drivers
So now, as always, we move to empirics and we present the results we have.
First variable is ideology. We count with two measurements. First one is by the party of the state Governor. The second one is by the voting in 2008 US Presidential Elections. It refers to states where the winning party gathered more than 60% of state votes.
Our results indicate that ideology counts, and probably counts a lot in explaining media attention. As expected, democratic oriented states tend to provide a higher level of media attention than republican oriented states.
Now we move to economic conditions. As protests critizise how the ongoing economic and fiscal crisis is being addressed, economic conditions in states should be a relevant factor influencing media coverage.
Main economic variable linked to the crisis is unemployment rate. Let’s check how states react to Occupy events, depending on their present unemployment rate.
And we find there a very surprising and instructive result: against all expectations, media attention to Occupy Wall Street is unrelated state unemployment rate. There is even a slighly higher media coverage in states with low unemployment rate (less than 7%) than in states suffering the most of the crisis (unemployment rate higher than 10%).
So state media attention is not driven mainly by the extent of the damages of the crisis, but probably more by the ideological interpretation on why it has been caused and how it could be address.
We now check the influence of another socioeconomif factor; the present economic power (measured by GDP per capita) and presence of poverty in the states.
As for the first variable, we find again a counter intuitive result: states with higher GDP per capitapublish more news abour Occupy Wall Street than “poor” states, in a quite substantial difference of behaviour. The opposite should be expected.
There is a reason behind this surprising result: current wealthy states are democratic oriented states (a voting rate for Obama of 54.8% in past elections), while states with less than 42,000 US$ per capita (US average is US$ 47,000) are mainly republican oriented states (a voting rate for Obama of 47,1% in past elections). This result tells us that state GDP per capita is not a driving factor of Occupy media coverage.
As for the state poverty rate influence, we find basically a neutral impact, with a small effect in the expected direction: states with more people suffering of poverty tend to rpovide a slighly higher degree of media attention to Occupy Wall Street.
Note: take this as a provisional result, to be amended with new data without New York and California).
(All results put together, we come to the conclusion that the main driver of media coverage given to Occupy Wall Street in this initial stages of the media story is ideology. This result does not infer any conclusion concerning the motivations of the protesters, the organizations behind the movement and others endorsing it. It just points out (but quite clearly) that right now, the media which is more sensitive to Occupy is not the one where the readers are in areas suffering the most of unemployment and poverty, but the one where readers are mainly supporting the Democratic Party.)
More analysis on the evolution of these drivers and on news content analysis about this topic will come.