Regional — national — supranational. How the German press covers election campaigns on different levels of the political system
Jürgen Wilke and Melanie Leidecker
(Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany)
ABSTRACT: The analysis of election campaigns is a long-standing tradition in communication science. Since the classic Erie County study (1944) there have been multiple studies on how the mass media cover parliamentary and presidential elections. But the studies primarily focused on elections at the national level and a growing number also at an international level. The role of the mass media in regional elections has been analysed considerably less often. One field which has been neglected so far is to compare press coverage on the aforementioned three levels of the political system, namely the regional, the national, and the supranational level. Our quantitative content analyses of German newspapers (2009–2011) show if and how much election campaign coverage on these three levels differs. Because of these differences we propose to distinguish between first-rate coverage (of national elections), second-rate coverage (of regional elections), and third-rate coverage (of European elec- tions). The gap between these levels may result in different perceptions of the campaigns by the public.