Political Scandals, Newspapers, and the Election Cycle

  • Marcel Garz
  • Jil SörensenEmail author
Original Paper


Election outcomes are often influenced by political scandals. While a scandal usually has negative consequences for the ones being accused of a transgression, political opponents and even media outlets may benefit. Anecdotal evidence suggests that certain scandals could be orchestrated, especially if they are reported right before an election. This study examines the timing of news coverage of political scandals relative to the national election cycle in Germany. Using data from electronic newspaper archives, we document a positive and highly significant relationship between coverage of government scandals and the election cycle. On average, one additional month closer to an election increases the amount of scandal coverage by 1.3%, which is equivalent to a 62% difference in coverage between the first and the last month of a four-year cycle. We provide suggestive evidence that this pattern can be explained by political motives of the actors involved in the production of scandal, rather than business motives by the newspapers.


Campaign Information strategy News coverage Voting 



We thank participants at the 2015 Economics of Media Bias Workshop, members of the eponymous research network, and seminar participants at the University of Hamburg for helpful comments and suggestions. We are grateful to Spiegel Publishing for access to its news archive. Daniel Czwalinna, Jana Kitzinger, Henning Meyfahrt, Fabian Mrongowius, Ulrike Otto, and Nadine Weiss provided excellent research assistance. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Hamburg Media School.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11109_2019_9577_MOESM1_ESM.docx (235 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 234 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jönköping UniversityJönköpingSweden
  2. 2.Hamburg Media SchoolHamburgGermany

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