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Disproportionality in media representations of campaign negativity

Dominic Nyhuis, Hyunjin Song and Hajo Boomgaarden

Political Science Research and Methods, 2021, vol. 9, issue 3, 519-531

Abstract: We explore mediated representations of parties' campaign interactions in multi-party systems. Actors in multi-party systems can engage with different actors on multiple issues. One crucial aspect of such engagement is the element of negativity—voicing criticisms of other actors' actions and policy proposals. This contribution argues that the media systematically exaggerate patterns of negativity based on issue ownership structures, such that attacks originating from or targeting issue owners are significantly more likely to be covered. We analyze a broad sample of news content from the 2013 Austrian national election campaign with generalized exponential random graph models to capture the complexities of mediated campaign negativity in a multi-party system while controlling for non-mediated campaign negativity. The results show that issue owners are more likely to be featured as attackers and targets in owned policy domains, suggesting a violation of the normative ideal of a fair representation of campaign interactions.

Date: 2021
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