The European Journal of Communication Research
Ed. by Averbeck-Lietz, Stefanie / d'Haenens, Leen
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Invisible second-order campaigns? A longitudinal study of the coverage of the European Parliamentary elections 1979–2004 in four German quality newspapers
In recent years, the European Union (EU) has become more and more important in the lives of Europeans due to its growing authority in policy-making. In contrast to that, there still are several shortcomings in our knowledge of how European institutions, political processes, and events are presented in the media. This paper focuses on the coverage of the elections of the European Parliament (EP) because of two contradictory developments. Although the relevance of the EP to EU decision-making has considerably increased since 1979, voter interest and voter turnout at EP elections has been declining. Against this backdrop the paper (a) investigates the long-term development of EP election coverage in German newspapers and (b) compares EP and national election campaign coverage. Based on a content analysis of the coverage of four German quality newspapers of all six European election campaigns that took place since 1979, the analysis shows that there has not been an increase in EP election coverage, that EP elections were covered much less frequently than national elections, that, like in national elections, there was a trend towards more subjectivity in EP election coverage, that EP elections were looked at from a mainly national perspective, and that the degree of personalization was lower in EP than in national election coverage. In addition, explicit assessments of the EP's political relevance gave a better picture of the real development than one would expect from the analysis of the mere amount of coverage.
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