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The European Journal of Communication Research

Ed. by Averbeck-Lietz, Stefanie / d'Haenens, Leen

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Context matters: Professionalization of campaign posters from Adenauer to Merkel

Niklas Venema / Dennis Steffan
Published Online: 2018-10-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2018-2020


This study examines the professionalization of political communication by focusing on changes to campaign posters for Bundestag elections over the course of five eras of German post-war history. We conducted a quantitative content analysis of both visual and textual elements of campaign posters (N = 1,857) in the period from 1949 to 2017 with regard to personalization, de-ideologization, and negative campaigning. The study revealed differences related to the five eras. Following the early conservative governments (1949–1969), high levels of personalization and ideologization first became defining features of election campaigns during the social-liberal era (1969–1982). After the Kohl era (1982–1998), these trends have occurred again since the Schröder era (1998–2005) and have been reinforced in the Merkel era (2005–2017). Furthermore, we found neither a clear upward nor a downward trend for negative campaigning. Overall, our study demonstrated that political parties adapt their communication strategies to the context of the respective election.

Keywords: campaign posters; post-war history; professionalization; communication strategies; German Bundestag elections


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Published Online: 2018-10-17

Citation Information: Communications, ISSN (Online) 1613-4087, ISSN (Print) 0341-2059, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2018-2020.

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