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National Party gaining largest percentage of media coverage

University of Canterbury election study mid-point results show National Party gaining largest percentage of media coverage

The mid-point results of a University of Canterbury study into media coverage of the election show that the National Party received the largest percentage of election coverage, received 40.7 per cent of media coverage compared to the 36.8 per cent of coverage achieved by the Labour Party. The results also show that more of the National Party’s coverage is negative in tone (53.9 per cent) than that achieved by Labour (43.2 per cent).

The study is being conducted by Dr Babak Bahador and MA student and former journalist Katherine Roff from the University of Canterbury’s School of Social and Political Sciences and repeats a similar study undertaken by Dr Bahador during the 2008 general election in New Zealand.

Other key findings are that the Greens dominating coverage achieved by the minor parties attracting 9.7 per cent of the 22.5 per cent of coverage of the minor parties. The Greens also attracted the highest percentage of positive coverage at 51.5 per cent of its total coverage.

Prime Minister John Key achieved the largest percentage of media coverage amongst the party leaders at 48.6 per cent with Labour Party leader Phil Goff attracting 35 per cent of coverage of party leaders. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters attracted the most coverage of minor party leaders achieving 6.5 per cent of the 16.3 per cent of coverage gained by the leaders of minor parties.

The economy attracted the most coverage of all policy areas at 20.7 per cent with social and public services attracting 20.2 per cent of coverage.

The study also analysed media coverage of the referendum on New Zealand’s electoral system which will be held at the same time as the general election. Mid-point results showed that the MMP or Mixed Member Proportional system achieved the most coverage at 53.6 per cent of total coverage, with the FPP or First Past the Post system attracting 16.2 per cent of coverage.

The full results of the study will be released in two weeks on the eve of the general election.

Study methodology:

The findings in this study are based on a content analysis of leading New Zealand daily newspapers (New Zealand Herald, Dominion Post and The Press) and daily television news programmes (TV1 and TV3 evening news). The findings in this report are based on results from the first two weeks of a four-week study. The first two weeks cover the period from Wednesday 26 October 2011 to (and including) Tuesday 8 November 2011.

Over the first two weeks, 355 media stories were analysed. Stories were selected if they met the following criteria:

• Newspapers: From front page, election/politics section or editorial. At least 50 per cent of the content related to the election.
• Television: From first 10 news stories. At least 50 per cent of the content related to the election.

Within each story, references for the following five categories were identified and coded:
1: Parties (e.g. Labour, National), 2: Party Leaders (e.g. Key, Goff), 3: Policy issues (e.g. economy, tax), 4: Non-policy issues (e.g. polls, scandals), 5: Referendum (e.g. MMP). References to these categories formed the “unit of analysis” (UOA) for this study. In total, 11,782 UOA were identified based on the following distribution amongst the different categories:

CategoriesUnits of AnalysisPercentage of Total
Parties3,45829.3%
Leaders2,34319.9%
Policy Issues2,74223.3%
Non-policy Issues2,76923.5%
Referendum 470 4.0%
Total (N =) 11,782100%

Tone (positive, negative and neutral) was determined based on matching each reference to a media frame or frames. For example, references to party leaders as “desperate for power” or “flip-flopper” were coded as negative frames, while references to party leaders as “experienced” or having “bold ideas” would be coded as positive frames. In total, 117 different frames were identified in this study.

ENDS

New_Zealands_Media_Coverage_of_the_2011_Election_Study__MidWay_Results.pdf

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