- (Photo: Reuters/Jim Young)
At least 28 newspapers that endorsed then Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 have switched over this year and endorsed Republican nominee Mitt Romney for president.
As of Friday afternoon, over 100 editorial boards of newspapers had endorsed Romney while Obama had received around 85. Several more will be making endorsements this weekend. Yet the two questions people from analyzers to voters are asking is why did those who endorsed Obama four years ago switch to Romney this year, and will they in turn convince voters with their endorsement?
Of the many reasons newspapers gave when they endorsed a candidate this year, most came down to the one issue that seems to be driving this election: the economy.
The Des Moines Register – who four years ago heartily endorsed Obama – handed their endorsement to Romney and talked about the economy growing at an "unacceptably anemic rate." Three other Iowa newspapers are also backing Romney.
The Orlando Sentinel summed it up best when it wrote:
"It verges on magical thinking to expect Obama to get different results in the next four years. And while the nation's economy is still sputtering nearly four years after Obama took office, the federal government is more than $5 trillion deeper in debt. It just racked up its fourth straight 13-figure shortfall. Obama's defenders would argue that he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, and would have made more progress if not for obstruction from Republicans in Congress. But Democrats held strong majorities in the House and Senate during his first two years."
Even the liberal-leaning Nashville, Tenn. newspaper The Tennessean, owned by Gannett, endorsed Mitt Romney this year. Nevertheless, they showed their angst in making the endorsement by saying, "With great reservations, the editorial board of this newspaper gives the nod to Mr. Romney," before citing the reason for their endorsement: the economy.
As for President Obama, the papers that endorsed his re-election did so primarily over his work on social issues, especially those benefitting the poor, which also added more digits to the nation's expanding federal deficit.
"President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth," wrote The New York Times in its endorsement. "He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless."
But aside from the bragging rights each campaign gets from an endorsement, the more important question is do they really matter and are the readers of those publications influenced enough to cast their vote on those recommendations?
In 2008, Brown University professor Brian Knight found that newspaper endorsements can carry some weight, but the determining factor comes down to the credibility of the publication. In other words, do their readers feel the endorsement was reached in an objective manner based on what is best for the nation as a whole?
"Voters are sophisticated and attempt to filter out any bias in media coverage of politics," Knight wrote.
Making the case for his own industry is Greg Mitchell, the former editor of Editor & Publishing magazine, a publication devoted to the newspaper industry.
"I would certainly never argue that editorial endorsements are key today, but judging from my experience in 2004 and 2008, they should not be ignored," Mitchell wrote in a September article in The Nation.
Mitchell also recognizes that print newspaper circulation is down and that Internet-based publications are how many Americans get their news today.
"While readership of print editions has certainly declined, most newspapers actually have more readers these day, because of the same news outlet that has doomed the dead-tree editions: the Internet. And editorial endorsements do get major play on the web when they do appear."
Yet some political strategists don't give much credence to newspaper endorsements, saying they once swayed voters but that time has passed.
"I think up until the 1980's they had an impact on voters," said Joe Williamson, a Florida political consultant, to The Christian Post. "But those days are gone. Voters are smarter now and get their information from too many places. They don't need a newspaper to tell them how to vote."
Note: The Christian Post editorial board did not endorse a candidate in the 2012 presidential campaign. However, Dr. Richard Land, CP's executive editor, did endorse Mitt Romney.