Political communication systems and voter participation
This dissertation explores how institutional settings regulating the media and campaigns affect voter participation. The broader question is what types of political communication systems are likely to produce the most engaged and participatory citizens as well as equal participation. Assuming that political participation is affected by its underlying costs and benefits, I hypothesize that political communication systems that lower information costs for voters have higher turnout levels and reduce upper class bias. Political communication systems are measured by media systems, access to paid TV advertising, and campaign finance laws. In the country-level turnout models, investigating seventy-four electoral democracies, I find that public broadcasting systems increase voter turnout, while changing the effect of paid advertising. Public broadcasting systems that allow paid TV advertising have a higher turnout levels than those that ban paid advertising. Conversely, paid advertising in private broadcasting systems have a negative marginal effect on voter turnout. On the other hand, campaign finance laws that allow more money to enter election campaigns increase voter participation. So campaign contribution and spending limits depress turnout and public finance increases it. The hierarchical models in Chapter 6 show that political communication systems also change the relationship between individual socioeconomic status and voter participation. Generally political communication environment that lower information costs for voters reduces socioeconomic bias for voters. Public broadcasting systems, access to paid TV ads, and free TV time, thus, mitigate the effect of education on voting. Additional investigation also shows that the age gap between voters and nonvoters is conditioned by different types of political communication systems. Both partisan press and public direct funding promote younger citizens’ participation, thus decreasing the generation gap. In contrast, campaign contribution/expenditure limits enlarge such gap. Broadcasting systems also affect the effect of age on voting. Because older people spend more time watching television than younger ones, the type of broadcasting system has a disproportionately larger impact on older citizens.