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Crisis in the News, Crisis in the Ballots: Assessing the Political Consequences of Changing Media Systems During Times of Crisis, EU Elections 1979 – 2009

Andrea De Angelis
University of Lucerne
Andrea De Angelis
University of Lucerne

Abstract

New media technologies can change the way people deal with politics allowing the avoidance of economic and political information. In particular, this paper aims at the radical transformations that new media technologies imply for the collection of political information and its conversion into political considerations. Different media systems change the information’s habits of voters. New media users are exposed to different flows of information with respect to TV watchers and newspaper readers. Understanding how the changes in the media systems affect individuals’ attitudes, political preferences and voting choices is an important but unfulfilled task of political communication research. This paper explores the hypothesis of differential effects among different types of media: new media are characterised by a greater choice set of information sources. This allows Internet users to better discriminate the flow of economic information according to their political predispositions and their interest in political and economic issues. Selective exposure reduces the chances of an attitude shift for Internet users in a high-choice media system. Conversely, before the Internet revolution and the spreading of Cable and Satellite TV, the choice set was much narrower and media users were limited in their possibility to self-select relevant information. This implies larger room for attitude transformations and a smaller knowledge gap. Among the large set of politically relevant issues this paper puts emphases on the role of economic events off and during times of economic crises. In the latter case the harsh material conditions increases the saliency of economic issues. Therefore, the main focus involves the role of economic issues, the collection of economic information, and the effects of changes in economic policies on public opinion. To investigate these hypotheses I rely on the Longitudinal Media Study series of the European Election Study that includes systematic content analyses for the European elections of 1979, 1999, 2004, and 2009. The first and the latter took place during severe international crises, namely the Long Crisis of 1974-1982 and the Great Crisis of 2007-2010. I exploit the differences in the European media systems between 1979 and 2009 to assess the advanced hypotheses.