When Journalists Run for Office: The Effects of Journalist-Candidates on Citizens’ Populist Attitudes and Voting Intentions
This study analyzes how citizens respond to information about high-profile journalists who run for office for major political parties in Italy. An experiment embedded in the Italian National Election Studies 2018 preelection survey (N = 1,533) tested whether exposure to information about journalist-candidates affects citizens’ levels of populist attitudes and voting intentions. Information on journalist-candidates led to statistically significant increases in populist attitudes, particularly when participants were told that journalists were running for all the main parties. By contrast, participants who were shown information about journalist-candidates did not increase their probability to vote for the parties that fielded those journalist-candidates. These findings suggest that political parties do not stand to gain substantial electoral benefits when they recruit journalist-candidates, but this practice increases citizens’ perceptions that both journalism and politics do not serve their interests. Citizens remain attached to the idea that journalists should retain some distance from politics rather than aim to become politicians themselves.