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Symbols of Priority? How the Media Selectively Report on Parties' Election Campaigns

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Maarja LuhisteORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Leaders and MPs serve as the party’s public face. Their image casts a shadow in which observers interpret policy statements. We hypothesize that media cover and voters understand policy messages through the lens of prominent party members’ characteristics. Easy-to-observe descriptive traits, such as gender or ethnicity, cue parties’ policy priorities. Media are more likely to emphasize party messages on issues historically related to these groups when they are visible in the party’s public image. We test hypotheses from our theory using data on prominent party members’ descriptive characteristics, policy statements, and media coverage of statements from the European Election Studies. Data from the 1999, 2004 and 2009 European elections evidence support for our theory. Parties with more female representatives signal stronger emphasis on gendered issues in media reports. The results hold implications for our understanding of the ways in which parties deliver and voters receive campaign messages. This research offers an explanation for voters’ limited knowledge of parties’ policy positions; media reinforce existing gender stereotypes and voters’ pre-dispositions by selectively reporting policy statements.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Greene Z, Lühiste M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Political Research

Year: 2018

Volume: 57

Issue: 3

Pages: 717-739

Print publication date: 01/08/2018

Online publication date: 03/10/2017

Acceptance date: 28/08/2017

Date deposited: 29/08/2017

ISSN (print): 0304-4130

ISSN (electronic): 1475-6765

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1111/1475-6765.12247


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