Party strategy and media bias: a quantitative analysis of the 2005 UK election campaign

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Abstract

This article investigates the current state of press partisanship in the UK. Utilizing content analysis data from the 2005 General Election campaign, recent hypotheses about press dealignment are tested with quantitative methods. Partisan tendencies in reporting are measured in terms of coverage bias, statement bias, and agenda bias. As the governing party, Labour benefits from coverage bias in all papers, while the Liberal Democrats remain marginalized. It can be shown that increasingly ambiguous endorsements in broadsheet and tabloid press alike translate into a general absence of open support for political parties. At best, endorsed parties receive neutral treatment, with their opponents being harshly criticized. Partisan tendencies do, however, manifest themselves in other patterns of campaign coverage. Even weakly partisan papers engage in strategic behaviour, most notably by reinforcing the issue agendas of endorsed parties. With both the Independent and the Guardian lending strategic support to the Liberal Democrats, and the Murdoch press being largely non‐committal, the analysis hints at an erosion of support for New Labour.
LanguageEnglish
Pages157-178
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Volume16
Issue number2
Early online date15 Aug 2006
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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election campaign
coverage
trend
Labour Party
New Labour
lending
quantitative method
erosion
content analysis
campaign

Keywords

  • general election campaign
  • media bias
  • political party strategy

Cite this

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title = "Party strategy and media bias: a quantitative analysis of the 2005 UK election campaign",
abstract = "This article investigates the current state of press partisanship in the UK. Utilizing content analysis data from the 2005 General Election campaign, recent hypotheses about press dealignment are tested with quantitative methods. Partisan tendencies in reporting are measured in terms of coverage bias, statement bias, and agenda bias. As the governing party, Labour benefits from coverage bias in all papers, while the Liberal Democrats remain marginalized. It can be shown that increasingly ambiguous endorsements in broadsheet and tabloid press alike translate into a general absence of open support for political parties. At best, endorsed parties receive neutral treatment, with their opponents being harshly criticized. Partisan tendencies do, however, manifest themselves in other patterns of campaign coverage. Even weakly partisan papers engage in strategic behaviour, most notably by reinforcing the issue agendas of endorsed parties. With both the Independent and the Guardian lending strategic support to the Liberal Democrats, and the Murdoch press being largely non‐committal, the analysis hints at an erosion of support for New Labour.",
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