Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Penington, L. (2024). News Deserts And Voter Turnout: How Local News Shortages Decrease Voter Participation. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Lauren Penington 2024


How does local news impact a county’s registered voter population, associated voting patterns, and political participation? Electoral turnout is one of the most studied topics in political science, and substantial research exists into demographic factors — including race, age, and socioeconomic status — that influence an individual’s likelihood to vote. Recent studies have begun to examine the impact of societal factors — such as the internet, social media, and news — on an individual’s ability to and likelihood of fulfilling their civic obligation. This paper explores the relationship between expanding news deserts and decreasing voter turnout, proposing that as a county loses access to local news — measured through disappearance of local papers and fluctuation in circulation — its voter turnout will likewise decrease. This hypothesis was tested by gathering newspaper circulation, registered voter, and final votes cast data for each of Nebraska’s 93 counties for four separate election years and running a regression of that data alongside multiple control variables and potential confounders. The data and regression supported this hypothesis, showing a relatively large and significant correlation between the two variables, suggesting that drops in local newspaper circulation decrease voter turnout rates.