Local journalism has a key role to play in civil society, providing scrutiny of local institutions and providing access to the public to ensure they make informed decision in civic life. As part of a recent study into the dynamics of the press sector for the UK Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), we used econometric analysis to assess and quantify the relationship between local newspaper performance and local democratic participation – measured by local election turnout. This paper provides a summary of our approach and results, which indicates that local newspaper circulation and reach has a significant positive impact on local election turnout over time. In particular, there is evidence of a positive correlation indicating that areas with higher levels of local newspaper circulation also report higher local election turnout. We also find evidence to suggest that time-invariant factors – such as specific geographic or demographic factors not captured in the dataset – are important determinants of local election turnout rate.
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