Does Democracy Die in Darkness? An Examination of the Relationship between Local Newspaper Health and Municipal Politics
Voter turnout, a key marker of democratic health, varies significantly between Canadian municipalities (Breux, Couture & Koop, 2017; Nakhaie, 2006). Few studies have examined municipal turnout in Canada, but those that have (e.g., Breux et al., 2017; Cutler & Matthews, 2005) overlook the role of local media. This quantitative, cross-sectional study fills a gap in the literature by determining the impact of local newspaper health on turnout in a unique dataset of 233 populous Canadian municipalities. This study focuses on print newspapers over other local media, as they are at high risk of closure (Lindgren, Corbet & Hodson, 2017) despite being primary producers of “watchdog” or accountability journalism (Nielsen, 2015). In an OLS multivariate linear regression, this study finds a significant positive correlation between turnout and (1) the total number of newspapers per municipal population and (2) the publication frequency of the largest newspaper in a municipality.