The Boston Globe and The New York Times both endorsed Hillary Clinton in theDemocratic primary and John Kasich in theRepublican primary this week. But for those two candidates, these endorsements could mean very different things.
Particularly for the Ohio governor — praised by the papers for his ability to compromise — it may not be great news.
A 2013 study by Dartmouth professor Kyle Dropp and MIT professor Christopher Warshaw found that “voters are more likely to support a candidate that receives an endorsement from a like-minded group, while political endorsements from groups individuals dislike makes them less likely to support a candidate.’’
They conducted two experiments, one on the national level and one in Washington, D.C., to see how endorsements from papers affected different people’s support for a candidate. One example of their findings from the D.C. experiment:
Conservatives are 4 percentage points more likely to support a candidate endorsed by the [perceived as conservative] Washington Times (although this difference falls below conventional levels of statistical significance) and 14 percentage points less likely to support candidates endorsed by the Washington Post [seen as liberal].
Given the perceived liberal slant of the Times and Globe editorial boards, this could be bad news for a Kasich campaign under attack for the same “moderate’’ record for which those papers praised him.
While the endorsements could raise Kasich’s profile as a “viable alternative’’ to Donald Trump, as well as increased financial support and media coverage, New England College political science professor Wayne Lesperance told Boston.com it is unlikely they would make Republicans more likely to vote for him.
“There’s no evidence they translate into significant new votes among Republicans,’’ Lesperance said.
The Ohio governor — looking for a strong showing in New Hampshire, while bypassing Iowa — has also been endorsed by seven local Granite State papers, including the Concord Monitor and Keene Sentinel, known forendorsing moderate Republicans. This fact was not overlooked by supporters of Kasich’s establishment-lane rival Chris Christie, who picked up endorsements from the more conservative New Hampshire Union Leader and Boston Herald, including Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid:
In their study, Dropp and Warshaw referred to the Globe’s endorsement of Jon Huntsman in 2012, snubbing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Not that he Romney campaign lost much sleep over it.
“The Globe has a liberal editorial page, and it’s not surprising they would endorse Jon Huntsman,’’ Romney campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom responded.
“Mitt Romney was pleased to get the endorsement of the more conservative Boston Herald,’’ Fehrnstrom added.
When it came time to vote in New Hampshire, Romney carried the state with 39 percent of the vote, compared to Huntsman’s 17 percent — good for third place.
Among Republicans, the difference was even wider. According to exit polls, just 10 percent of Republicans voted for Huntsman, compared to 49 percent for Romney.
Following the Globe’s endorsement of Kasich, the Union Leader wrote that the Ohio governor had “achieved the Full Huntsman.’’ It was not a compliment.
Convincing conservatives might not be the point in New Hampshire, where independents make up nearly half of primary voters.
“[The endorsements] may lead independents to vote for him,’’ Lesperance said, adding that a significant amount of voters make up their minds at the last minute. “To the extent that there are positive news stories, endorsements and otherwise, that raise the profile of a candidate as a positive choice, that is good news.’’
Lesperance also noted, however, that there is a big difference in the impact of endorsements in presidential races versus the sway they hold in less-prestigious elections.
According to the American Journalism Review, newspaper endorsements mostly carry weight in lower-office, low-information elections (i.e. not a presidential campaign).
But ultimately — whether running for president or school board — according Dropp and Warshaw, “it is not in the best interest of candidates to receive an endorsement from a newspaper that is ideologically distinct from the median voter.’’
In this case, the “median voter’’ is a Republican primary voter. Exit polls in 2012 showed that the median New Hampshire primary voter supported the Tea Party.
Kasich, however, celebrated the Times endorsement Saturday.
“When people like The New York Times say, ‘This is a guy that can bring people together and solve problems,’ I’d like to know how that’s not helpful,’’ he told CNN. “I think it’s really helpful.’’
Other prominent conservatives were less enthusiastic, however, about the Times’ endorsement.
“If you wanted to be helpful, NYT Edit Board,’’ tweeted David Frum, editor at The Atlantic., “you’d denounce John Kasich as a threat to all you hold most dear.’’
National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg was less delicate.
NYT Kasich endorsement is editorial equivalent of assisted suicide.— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) January 30, 2016