Local Media Coverage and State Level Ideology

Hello! My name is Joanna Borman and I am working on an independent project this summer that deals with media coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). My project is an extension of work I have been doing through the Social Network and Political Psychology Lab (SNaPP) Lab on campus.  The lab is run by Government professor Jaime Settle and primarily covers the intersection of political science and psychology, or political behavior.  However, over the past year my team (dubbed the “Obamacare Group”) has been collecting information on the ACA in order to better understand one of the most seminal events in American politics over the past decade.

We spent the first semester collecting thousands of local newspaper articles from the Access World News Database that contained words relating to health care reform.  Next, we cleaned up the data and ran it through various computer programs in order to quantify the number of articles with words related to the lab’s research questions. It was a slow process, but we finally have clean data sets!

This summer, I have been focusing on my own individual  research question. I am interested in comparing the relationship between the frequency of politically charged words and phrases such as “death panel” and “socialized medicine” and the idealogical leanings of a state.  I have a a list of key phrases and words that I will be comparing to an index for state citizen ideology developed by Berry et. al.  I am hypothesizing that more conservative states will have higher mentions of words per article with variations on “socialism” than more liberal states.  However, I also think that more liberal states will have higher mentions of the phrase “death panel,” because newspapers in more liberal states were attempting to refute the death panel myth. Prior research suggests that local news coverage tends to be more responsive to the preferences of local audiences. Through my project, I hope to understand if this holds true for a highly politicized issue with national ramifications.



  1. This is awesome! I was just emailing Professor Settle the other week because I’m interested in working in the SNaPP Lab/ quantifying my own research. Are you using programs other than R?

  2. languages* other than R