This isn’t really true all the time….
But the media editors want it to be…
State and local governments have a huge influence on citizens’ daily lives. They spend people’s tax dollars. They decide how schools operate and what constitutes a crime. And yet, few people seem to care these days. State and local elections aren’t drawing the interest from voters or the media that they did a few decades ago. National politics, on the other hand, is a bit like your smartphone: Even when you know that other things demand your attention, you can’t seem to look away. That’s a worrisome trend, particularly in a federalist system like the one in the United States, which gives state and local officials wide-ranging authority.
How did national politics manage to crowd out state and local politics? I take up that question in my new book, “The Increasingly United States: How and Why Political Behavior Nationalized.” The book considers a wide range of potential causes for and consequences of national politics’ ever-longer shadow, including its relationship with partisan polarization and its impacts on voting. In this article, though, I want to focus on just one part of the broader puzzle: the transformation of our media markets and how that affected voters’ knowledge and participation levels.
Americans today are far more engaged with and knowledgeable about national politics than state or local politics, a gap that has been growing in recent decades. And it turns out that the changing media environment is a key engine of today’s nationalization. More and more, Americans are turning away from the media outlets that are most likely to provide a modicum of state or local coverage. They are substituting Fox News (or maybe FiveThirtyEight) for the Fayetteville Observer, and The New York Times’ website for the Nevada Appeal….