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Media coverage of 2002 general election analysed


25 October 2002

Media coverage of 2002 general election to be analysed

The ways in which voter participation in the 2002 New Zealand general election was influenced by media coverage will be examined in a new international study led by political scientists at The University of Auckland.

Professor Jack Vowles, from the University's Department of Political Studies, says that the study will analyse the relationship between the style of political coverage and the extent of voter engagement in the electoral process.

"International experience suggests that media coverage focusing on the positive elements of campaigns, such as policy proposals, tends to encourage people to take interest and vote," says Professor Vowles.

"Conversely, media coverage that focuses on the negative elements of campaigns, such as personality conflicts, encourages political cynicism and discourages participation."

These patterns will be tested in a New Zealand context in this new study.

The researchers will look at the way different newspapers, television and radio stations covered this year's general election. They will make comparisons between the media that focused on more detailed coverage and those seeking to attract a more 'popular' audience by focusing on personalities rather than policy.

Recent research has pointed to declining party loyalties and increasing voter volatility between elections. Media campaigns therefore play an increasingly important role for many late deciders, and this study will reveal the extent of this role.

Up until now, most research on media coverage of election campaigns has concentrated on the United States, where commercialism is furthest advanced. Recently, academics have become interested in other countries where different types of media coverage are likely to result in different outcomes.

"New Zealand is a particularly strong candidate for comparison with other countries, since it has exceptionally high levels of interest in news and current affairs, and high levels of knowledge and participation," says Dr Joe Atkinson, Professor Vowles' co-researcher at the University of Auckland.

The New Zealand scholars will be collaborating with Professor Holli Semetko and Dr Susan Banducci from the University of Amsterdam in this Marsden grant-funded research project.

ENDS


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