Portrait of a Crisis: The Crucial Role of News Media Coverage and Perceived Effectiveness of a New Party

Joost Van Spanje, Rachid Azrout


For new parties, it is arguably crucial to receive news media attention. News media help shape a new party’s image. What aspects such an image is made of is not clear from the literature. Some scholars have argued that a new party’s perceived effectiveness is key. But is it really? Ideally, we would test this in the “clean” context of a new party that clearly falls to an abysmal state, of which increasing numbers of voters become aware. In 2014, the Dutch party 50Plus experienced exactly that. The present study examines this case, using a mixed-methods approach, involving a voter panel survey, an automated media content analysis, and a quasi-experiment. The findings show the dominant role of perceived effectiveness mediating the effect of visibility and tone of 50Plus coverage on propensity to vote for that party. Implications are discussed in light of the role of news media in democratic societies.


new parties, seniors’ parties, elections, news media, perceived party effectiveness, quasiexperimental setting, media content analysis, panel survey

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