There are many reasons newspapers do not endorse candidates: The endorsements don’t sway many votes. Polls consistently show endorsements are not hugely influential outside of local races. And newspapers provide information on those races outside the editorial pages.
“Don’t let anyone tell you how to mark your ballot,” USA Today founder Al Neuharth wrote in a 2004 non-endorsement of endorsements.
But there are arguments for the practice, too. They can help swing close races. As Concord (N.H.) Monitor Editor Felice Belman told Mallary Tenore in 2008, “Why wouldn’t we give readers the opportunity to tell them what we’ve learned?” To be sure, the U.S. political system grants papers in important primary states like New Hampshire close looks at presidential candidates many papers never get. But those states are often stocked with people following local and national races obsessively. What’s the harm of giving readers a download, especially in a close election where the public has displayed what seems to be unlimited demand for news and opinion?
Well, you might, say, endorse Hoover on the brink of the Great Depression, which the Wall Street Journal did in 1928, and readers might conclude your coverage is hopelessly slanted. This is sometimes cited as the reason that paper no longer writes endorsements (it somehow became the largest-circulation paper in the U.S. anyway).
More than a dozen U.S. newspapers endorsed a presidential candidate in the last week. Here’s a tally for the largest circulation papers in the swing states.
Swing state endorsement tally: Obama 5, Romney 5
- Colorado: 1 for Obama
- Denver Post (Obama)
- Florida: 2 for Romney; 1 for Obama
- Des Moines Register endorsed Obama in ‘08
- Nevada: 2 for Romney
- New Hampshire
- New Hampshire Union Leader (Gingrich)
- North Carolina: 1 for Obama
- Charlotte Observer (Obama)
- Raleigh News & Observer endorsed Obama in ‘08
- Ohio: 2 for Obama; 1 for Romney
- The Richmond Times Dispatch endorsed McCain in ‘08
- The Roanoke Times did not endorse in ‘08
- The Virginian Pilot did not endorse in ‘08
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsed Obama in ‘08
- Wisconsin State Journal endorsed Obama in ‘08
At least four papers that endorsed Obama for president in 2008 have flipped to endorse Romney for president in 2012. They include:
At least two papers have flipped in the other direction, from endorsing John McCain in 2008 to Obama in 2012:
The Onion took a bold stance, endorsing John Edwards.
And The New Yorker ran a 3,577-word endorsement of Obama.