Programming Presidential Agendas: Partisan and Media Environments That Lead Presidents to Fight Crime and Corruption

Elizabeth A. Stein, Marisa Kellam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines how media and partisan mechanisms of accountability influence presidential agendas in Latin America. The authors argue that responsiveness increases in powerful presidential systems when opposition parties and free media help citizens hold presidents accountable between elections. Where presidents must contend with a cohesive, ideological opposition and effective constraints to their power, they turn to valence issues with broad appeal and over which they have greater control. A free media-one without significant economic, legal, or political constraints-pressures the president to respond to the electorate's concerns, which include crime and corruption due to the incentives that motivate news content and the media's agenda-setting powers. Analyzing more than 50 presidential terms across 18 countries, the authors show that when Latin American presidents face either free and competitive media or strong legislative oppositions, homicide rates and the level of perceived corruption tend to be lower. Thus, this study proposes that efforts to improve media or partisan environments, or both, would help address Latin America's accountability deficit and promote good governance in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-52
Number of pages28
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan


  • Latin America
  • accountability
  • corruption
  • crime
  • media freedom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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