Skip to main content

Does media attention lead to personal electoral success? Differences in long and short campaign media effects for top and ordinary political candidates

Abstract

Although elections are not won in the media, scholars agree that media visibility impacts politicians’ electoral success. This study examines what effect media visibility has on the individual electoral success of all political candidates competing in PR-list system elections. We focus on media effects during the short and long campaign and investigate how these effects vary between types of candidates. We position media attention in a broader framework of factors influencing electoral success. Our findings show that for top candidates long campaign media attention predicts their electoral success, whereas for ordinary candidates attention during the short campaign matters most. Candidates also differ regarding indirect media effects, which is reflected especially in the gender bias of the media. Therefore, future research ought to be aware of candidate differences and temporal dynamics when inferring the electoral effects of media coverage. Overall, our findings indicate that the choices journalists make to report about some politicians and not about others have an actual impact on the electoral outcome and political careers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Notes

  1. 1.

    There is a discussion about whether to use party magnitude of the same election or party magnitude of the previous election. In this paper we use the former. However, a robustness check with party magnitude of the previous election gives similar results.

  2. 2.

    Note that this means that we do not look at the number of list votes a party receives, but only the number of preferential votes.

  3. 3.

    We have no indication of any multicollinearity problems between the short and long campaign in the analyses.

  4. 4.

    We are aware of alternative methods to analyze mediation such as described by Imai et al. (2010). However, since we analyze multiple mediations at the same time, we employ SEM instead.

  5. 5.

    Note that using GSEM (or clustered standard errors for that matter) makes it impossible to retrieve fit indices. Therefore, we estimated our model fit using a normal SEM model without clustered standard errors. Considering that both models are derived from the same correlation matrices, and the specification of both models is similar, we would argue this is the most correct way to handle this problem. For top candidates, the fit indices are as follow: χ²(5)=4.04, p=0.54, RMSEA=0.00 (90%-CI: 0.00–0.074), CFI=1.000. For ordinary candidates, we get the following fit indices: χ²(3)=3.60, p=0.31, RMSEA=0.017 (90% CI:0.00-0.068), CFI=1.000.

  6. 6.

    \(e^{{\left( {\log \left( {\frac{100 + 10}{100}} \right)} \right).053}}\).

  7. 7.

    \(e^{{\left( {.171} \right)}}\).

    Fig. 2
    figure2

    Direct and indirect effects of gender and minority status for top (left) and ordinary (right) candidates

  8. 8.

    \(e^{{\left( {2.66 * .323 * .011} \right)}} + e^{{\left( {1.434 * .011} \right)}}\).

    Fig. 3
    figure3

    Direct and indirect effects of political experience for top (left) and ordinary (right) candidates

  9. 9.

    Ideally, we would have performed a third sensitivity test in which we further distinguish the list puller from other candidates or make three categories. Unfortunately, this is not possible given the fact that we would not have enough statistical power for the SEM analysis.

References

  1. Aalberg, T., and J. Strömbäck. 2011. Media-driven Men and Media-critical Women? An Empirical Study of Gender and MPs’ Relationships With the Media in Norway and Sweden. International Political Science Review 32 (2): 167–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Abramowitz, A.I. 1989. Viability, Electability, and Candidate Choice in a Presidential Primary Election: A Test of Competing Models. The Journal of Politics 51 (4): 977–992.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Adcock, C. 2010. The Politician, The Wife, The Citizen, and her Newspaper. Feminist Media Studies 10 (2): 135–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. André, A., Depauw, S., Shugart, M. S., & Chytilek, R. Party nomination strategies in flexible-list systems Do preference votes matter? Party Politics. (In press)

  5. Campbell, A., P.E. Converse, W.E. Miller, and D.E. Stokes. 1960. The American Voter. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Carey, J.M., and M.S. Shugart. 1995. Incentives to cultivate a personal vote: A rank ordering of electoral formulas. Electoral Studies 14 (4): 417–439.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chaffee, S.H., and R.N. Rimal. 1996. Time of vote decision and openess to persuasion. In Political persuasion and attitude change, ed. D.C. Mutz, P.M. Sniderman, and R.A. Brody, 267–291. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Collingwood, L., M.A. Barreto, and T. Donovan. 2012. Early Primaries, Viability and Changing Preferences for Presidential Candidates. Presidential Studies Quarterly 42 (2): 231–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dalton, R.J., P.A. Beck, and R. Huckfeldt. 1998. Partisan Cues and the Media: Information Flows in the 1992 Presidential Election. The American Political Science Review 92 (1): 111–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Folke, O., T. Persson, and J. Rickne. 2016. The Primary Effect: Preference Votes and Political Promotions. American Political Science Review 110 (3): 559–578.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Galtung, J., and M.H. Ruge. 1965. The Structure of Foreign News The Presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus Crises in Four Norwegian Newspapers. Journal of Peace Research 2 (1): 64–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gelman, A., and G. King. 1990. Estimating Incumbency Advantage without Bias. American Journal of Political Science 34 (4): 1142–1164.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Goldenberg, E.N., and M.W. Traugott. 1987. Mass Media in U. S. Congressional Elections. Legislative Studies Quarterly 12 (3): 317–339.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Haynes, A.A., P.-H. Gurian, M.H. Crespin, and C. Zorn. 2004. The Calculus of Concession Media Coverage and the Dynamics of Winnowing in Presidential Nominations. American Politics Research 32 (3): 310–337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Helfer, L., and P. Van Aelst. 2016. What Makes Party Messages Fit for Reporting? An Experimental Study of Journalistic News Selection. Political Communication 33 (1): 59–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hong, S., and D. Nadler. 2012. Which candidates do the public discuss online in an election campaign?: The use of social media by 2012 presidential candidates and its impact on candidate salience. Government Information Quarterly 29 (4): 455–461.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Hopmann, D.N., R. Vliegenthart, C.D. Vreese, and E. Albæk. 2010. Effects of Election News Coverage: How Visibility and Tone Influence Party Choice. Political Communication 27 (4): 389–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Imai, K., L. Keele, and T. Yamamoto. 2010. Identification, Inference and Sensitivity Analysis for Causal Mediation Effects. Statistical Science 25 (1): 51–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Kahn, K.F. 1994. The Distorted Mirror: Press Coverage of Women Candidates for Statewide Office. The Journal of Politics 56 (1): 154–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kline, R.B. 2011. Principles and practice of structural equation modelling. New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Latimer, M.K. 1987. The Floating Voter and the Media. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 64 (4): 805–819.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Maddens, B., B. Wauters, J. Noppe, and S. Fiers. 2006. Effects of Campaign Spending in an Open List PR System: The 2003 Legislative Elections in Flanders/Belgium. West European Politics 29 (1): 161–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Marcinkiewicz, K. 2014. Electoral contexts that assist voter coordination: Ballot position effects in Poland. Electoral Studies 33: 322–334.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Miller, W.L., H.D. Clarke, M. Harrop, L. Leduc, and P.F. Whiteley. 1990. How Voters Change: The 1987 British Election Campaign in Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Miller, J.M., and J.A. Krosnick. 1998. The Impact of Candidate Name Order on Election Outcomes. The Public Opinion Quarterly 62 (3): 291–330.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Nagtzaam, M.A.M., and P.F.A. van Erkel. 2017. Preference votes without preference? Institutional effects on preference voting: an experiment. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 27 (2): 172–191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Norris, P., J. Curtice, D. Sander, M. Scammell, and A.S. Holli. 1999. On Message: Communicating the campaign. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Put, G.-J., and B. Maddens. 2013. The Selection of Candidates for Eligible Positions on PR Lists: The Belgian/Flemish Federal Elections 1999–2010. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 23 (1): 49–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Schmitt-Beck, R. 2003. Mass Communication, Personal Communication and Vote Choice: The Filter Hypothesis of Media Influence in Comparative Perspective. British Journal of Political Science 33 (2): 233–259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Semetko, H., and K. Schoenbach. 1994. Germany’s “unity election”: Voters and the media. NJ: Cresskill.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Shaw, D.R. 1999. The Impact of News Media Favorability and Candidate Events in Presidential Campaigns. Political Communication 16 (2): 183–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Sparks, G.G. 2010. Media effects research: A basic overview. Boston: Wadsworth.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Strömbäck, J., and F. Esser. 2014. Mediatization of politics: Towards a theoretical framework. In Mediatization of politics: Understanding the transformation of Western democracies, ed. F. Esser and J. Strömbäck, 3–28. Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  34. Thijssen, P. 2013. Are parties stimulating candidate-centred voting? The case of the Belgian district council elections 2000–2006. Acta Politica 48 (2): 144–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Van Aelst, P., B. Maddens, J. Noppe, and S. Fiers. 2008. Politicians in the News: Media or Party Logic? Media Attention and Electoral Success in the Belgian Election Campaign of 2003. European Journal of Communication 23 (2): 193–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Van Erkel, P.F.A., and P. Thijssen. 2016. The first one wins: Distilling the primacy effect. Electoral Studies 44: 245–254.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Vos, D. 2013. The vertical glass ceiling: Explaining female politicians’ underrepresentation in television news. The European Journal of Communication Research 38 (4): 389–410.

    Google Scholar 

  38. West, D.M. 1994. Television Advertising in Election Campaigns. Political Science Quarterly 109 (5): 789–809.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Yildirim, T.M., G. Kocapinar, and A.E. Yüksel. Forthcoming. Staying active and focused? The effect of parliamentary performance on candidate renomination and promotion. Party Politics (In press).

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Luzia Helfer, Shanto Iyengar, Anthony Mughan, and Annemarie Walter for their useful comments on earlier versions of the paper.

Funding

This work was supported by the Research Foundation Flanders under Grant Number G026513N.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patrick F. A. van Erkel.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 88 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

van Erkel, P.F.A., Van Aelst, P. & Thijssen, P. Does media attention lead to personal electoral success? Differences in long and short campaign media effects for top and ordinary political candidates. Acta Polit 55, 156–174 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41269-018-0109-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Preferential votes
  • Media
  • Elections
  • Campaigns
  • Structural equation modelling