Home / General / Did hysterical and misleading CRIME coverage deliver the House to Republicans?

Did hysterical and misleading CRIME coverage deliver the House to Republicans?

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It seems likely:

And the midterm results provide fresh evidence for the media’s power to shape public perceptions about crime. In fact, there is some reason to believe that the New York City media’s outsizeconcern with crime might have cost Democrats the House. Specifically, there is evidence that voters who were exposed to city media outlets put a higher priority on crime than voters in areas with similar (or higher) crime rates but different news sources. This redounded to the GOP’s benefit in the Empire State, enabling the party to nearly run the table in competitive House races. Had New Yorkers voted more like their peers in neighboring Pennsylvania, Democrats might still boast full control of the federal government next year.

That voters’ discontent with crime drove New York’s right turn is uncontroversial. Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin put crime at the center of his campaign, lacerating the Democratic Party for coddling criminals, a message that was further amplified by conservative PACs. In statewide polls, voters consistently ranked crime as their top issue. In interviews with the New York Times, suburban swing voters who’d backed the GOP in 2022 attributed their newfound support for Republicans to concerns about public safety. Critically, those concerns did not derive solely from direct experience of crime or Republican ads.

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What’s more, while criminal victimization is concentrated in the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, the political backlash to crime was pronounced in relatively placid suburbs. The homicide spike did not reach into affluent enclaves of Westchester or Long Island; but the New York Post did. Several suburbanites who spoke to the Times cited the Post’s coverage when explaining their midterm vote. For more than a year, that tabloid had crusaded for both the repeal of New York’s 2019 bail-reform law (which ended cash bail for nonviolent offenders awaiting trial) and Zeldin’s gubernatorial campaign. The Post has some agenda-setting power in the New York media, and its crusade may have influenced both the behavior of Republican politicians and the coverage decisions of local news stations. In any case, Republican candidates throughout New York latched onto the Post’s narrative, lacerating Democrats for putting dangerous criminals (which is to say, criminals too poor to purchase freedom) back on the streets.

Whatever the cause, the midterm results suggest that exposure to New York’s media market had a profound influence on voting behavior. New Jersey’s Third Congressional District is split between the New York City– and Philadelphia-designatedmedia markets encompassing broadcast television and radio.In Mercer and Burlington County — both of which reside in the Philly market — incumbent Democrat Andy Kim roughly equaled or exceeded President Biden’s margin in 2020. In Monmouth County, which lies in the NYC market, however, Kim underperformed Biden by seven points.

While it’s true that violent crime has increased in NYC in the last few years, this is a nationwide trend, so that mere fact cannot explain the turn against the Democrats in New York in what was otherwise a surprisingly good year for the in-party. And nor is it just Republican messaging: Republicans spent a ton of money on crime-hysteria ads in Washington, and not only did their Senate candidate lose by more than 13 points, they blew a red House district. There was something unusual about New York, and media coverage is the most obvious factor.

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