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Parliamentary Questions, Press Agency Coverage and Consumer Confidence: The Moderating Role of Crisis Severity

Media
Parliaments
Agenda-Setting
Public Opinion
Rens Vliegenthart
University of Amsterdam
Rens Vliegenthart
University of Amsterdam

Abstract

The interaction between politics, media and public has been central in much agenda setting research. It tries to understand why those key actors in democratic societies devote attention to and worry about specific issues, while neglecting others. While we already know a lot about how those different actors have an impact on each other, existing research does fall short in several respects. First, in many instances, the focus is on two of the three actors, as in political agenda setting research that focuses on media and politics, and public agenda setting research that looks into media and public salience (but see e.g. Soroka, 2002). Second, most research focuses on one-directional relationships, often with media as the key independent variable. Third, cross-national, longitudinal research is relatively scarce and has only started to understand how effects are moderated by for example institutional arrangements in different countries (Vliegenthart et al., 2016). Given the fact that interactions between politics, media and public are likely to be multiple, multidirectional and context-dependent, this paper takes a comprehensive approach, focusing on all interactions between politics, media and public in European countries in the context of the global economic crisis. We use monthly-level (pooled) time series analysis of negative economic attention in parliamentary questions and media coverage, and consumer confidence for the period 2005-2016 in nine countries (Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, Romania, Poland, Greece, Belgium and Denmark), which vary significantly in the extent to which they were affected by the crisis. Parliamentary questions were obtained from parliamentary archives. For media, we rely on releases from international press agencies on each of the countries. A pilot study for the Netherlands demonstrates that press agencies data correlate highly with newspaper coverage on the monthly level (r=.85) and yield substantially identical results in further analyses. We use straightforward key word searches to analyse those sources. Consumer confidence was obtained from the EU statistical office Eurostat. All analyses controlled for changes in unemployment rates (OECD data). Preliminary results from Vector Autoregression analyses for the Netherlands, France, Spain and Germany demonstrate that indeed, politicians, journalists and citizens depend on each other. In line with our expectations, in the countries where the economy was severely damaged by the crisis (France and Spain) consumer confidence exerted the strongest influence, while in the countries that were less strongly affected by the crisis (Germany and the Netherlands) newspaper coverage was leading. Literature Soroka, S. N. (2002). Issue attributes and agenda‐setting by media, the public, and policymakers in Canada. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 14(3), 264-285. Vliegenthart, R., Walgrave, S., Baumgartner, F. R., Bevan, S., Breunig, C., Brouard, Bonafont, L. C., Grossman, E., Jennings, W., Mortensen, P. B., Palau, A. M., Sciarini, P., and Tresch, A. (2016). Do the media set the parliamentary agenda? A comparative study in seven countries. European Journal of Political Research. 55(2), 283-301.