The Media as Secret Helpers? Analyzing the Mass Media's handling of Populist Party Communication during the 2014 EP Election Campaign

Schmidt, Franzisca (7 September 2017). The Media as Secret Helpers? Analyzing the Mass Media's handling of Populist Party Communication during the 2014 EP Election Campaign (Unpublished). In: 11th ECPR General Conference. University of Oslo, Norway. 06.09-09.09.2017.

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The results of the recent 2014 European Parliament Elections revealed great support for populist parties in many EU-member countries. To understand the mechanisms that foster the success of populist parties in Europe, it is crucial to shed light on the role of the mass media (Mazzoleni 2003). Acting as gatekeepers, journalists decide whether or not to cover incoming party communication in their political news section, thereby allocating more or less media attention (i.e. visibility) to this party. This visibility may, even if unintended, entail concrete support for political actors, as it is giving them recognition and legitimacy (Ellinas 2010) and eventually makes them more successful in mobilizing voter support (e.g. Koopmans & Muis 2009). This paper seeks to analyse what influence specific types of populist party communication had on a party’s visibility in the print media during the 2014 EP election campaign. Populism is perceived as a political communication style composed of an appeal to the people in combination with elite critique and/or the exclusion of others (Jagers & Walgrave 2007). Following Jagers & Walgrave (2007), a statement comprising a people reference and an elite critique is considered to be ‘anti-elitist populism’, while a statement featuring all three constitutive elements is considered as ‘full populism’. An additional specification accommodates for the transnational political arena in which the EP election campaign took place: Because an appeal to ‘the people’ can be addressed to different target groups (e.g. Reungoat 2010), I take into account whether political parties explicitly allude to the national or to the European community. A populist communication style is considered as ‘nationalist’, when comprising a reference to the actor’s own national community, whereas it is considered as ‘EU-oriented’, when comprising an explicit reference to other European citizens. A party is expected to become more visible in the print media the more often it applies full populism, because a populist communication style featuring exclusive stances (in addition to the other two elements) is of higher news value and thus more likely to be selected for news coverage (Galtung & Ruge 1965). Furthermore, it is expected that a party gets more media coverage the more it applies a nationalist type of populism, because ‘national identification’ is a more potent news factor for journalists, than ‘identification with other EU citizens’. To assess how specific types of populism influence a political news coverage, I identify different populist communication styles within party communication in the run-up to the 2014 EP elections in four countries (Germany, Austria, France and Greece). I conduct a quantitative content analysis of all EU-related press releases political parties (with a minimum of 3% vote share) in these countries have published 12 weeks preceding the elections. For the same period of time I assess these parties’ saliency in the political news coverage of two nationwide quality newspapers per country, also through quantitative content analysis. Share this page

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Mass Communication Studies

UniBE Contributor:

Schmidt, Franzisca


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Franzisca Schmidt

Date Deposited:

10 Apr 2018 11:08

Last Modified:

27 Oct 2019 00:12

Additional Information:

Panel Media and Anti-immigration Parties




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