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Does Public Support for UKIP Drive Their Media Coverage or Does Media Coverage Drive Support for UKIP? …

Posted by Greg Lance - Watkins (Greg_L-W) on 12/04/2018

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Does Public Support for UKIP Drive Their Media Coverage or Does Media Coverage Drive Support for UKIP? …

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Greg Lance – Watkins



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The corruption of EUkip’s leadership,
their anti UKIP claque in POWER & the NEC

is what gives the remaining 10% a bad name!

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Does Public Support for UKIP Drive Their
Media Coverage or Does Media Coverage
Drive Support for UKIP?

Justin Murphy
Daniel Devine


Previous research suggests media attention may cause support for populist rightwing parties, but extant evidence remains arguable and mostly limited to proportional representation systems in which such an effect would be most likely. At the same time, in the United Kingdom’s first-past-the-post system, an ongoing political and regulatory debate revolves around whether the media give disproportionate coverage to the populist right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP). Thus, we use a mixed-methods approach to investigate the causal dynamics of UKIP support and media coverage as an especially valuable case. Vector autoregression (VAR) using monthly, aggregate time-series data from January 2004 to September 2015 provides new evidence consistent with a model in which media coverage drives party support, but party support does not drive media coverage. Additionally, qualitative investigation of the dynamics suggests that in at least two key periods of stagnating or declining support for UKIP, media coverage increased and was followed by increases in public support. Overall the findings show that media coverage can and does appear to drive public support in a substantively important fashion irreducible to previous levels of public support, even in a national institutional environment least supportive of such an effect. The findings have direct and troubling implications for contemporary political and regulatory debates in the United Kingdom and potentially liberal democracies more generally.


If the visibility of a political party in the media shapes the public support it receives, then the degree to which the media gives attention to different political parties can have significant implications for democracy. In the United Kingdom, critics allege that the media pays disproportionate attention to the populist, right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) but media elites claim that media coverage of UKIP is driven by increasing public support for the party. Descriptively, media attention to UKIP is greater than that given to other, similarly sized parties on the right as well as the left (Goodwin and Ford, 2013; Stevenson, 2014; Soussi, 2014), but UK media regulator Ofcom as well as the BBC have publicly defended the attention paid to UKIP on grounds of public support for the party (Sweeney, 2015; Wintour, 2015). Implied in this elite reasoning is a causal model, namely that public support drives media coverage rather than vice-versa.

Yet previous research from proportional representation systems suggests that public
support does not drive media coverage for populist right-wing parties, but rather media coverage drives their public support (Boomgaarden and Vliegenthart, 2007, 2009; Vliegenthart et al., 2012). By leveraging this insight to investigate the causal dynamics of UKIP support and media coverage, we fill an important gap in current research on the visibility-support nexus and contribute pragmatically relevant insights to a contentious public policy debate of broad social significance (Gerring, 2015). First, we contribute to current research on the visibility-support nexus by testing a key insight from this research in a new institutional context where the hypothesized relationship should be less likely. Because proportional representation systems are associated with a greater number of small parties (Duverger, 1972) and they tend to produce more diverse news (Benson, 2009; Sheafer and Wolfsfeld, 2009; Kumlin, 2001; Strömbäck and Dimitrova, 2006; Baum, 2012), research confined to such systems is arguably most likely to reflect a model in which media coverage generates support for populist right-wing parties. In a first-past-the-post system, where we typically expect only two parties and media to be less diverse, these institutional pressures make it more difficult for the media to generate support for smaller populist, right-wing parties. Thus, testing this theory with time-series data from a first-past-the-post system contributes to either refining the scope conditions of previous research (in the case of unexpected findings) or else extending and strengthening our confidence in the media-support relationship. Secondly, we contribute to a pressing regulatory question in UK national politics, as the democratic quality of UK media regulation with respect to political party favouritism, especially regarding populist right-wing parties, remains on public trial. This article lends insight into the causal dynamics implied but rarely if ever tested within such popular policy debates.
The article begins by outlining the theory before moving to a discussion of our data,
method and research strategy. We then present quantitative and qualitative analyses of the relationship between UKIP support and UKIP media coverage. A final section concludes

To view all 26 pages of the report with relevant disgrams and footnotes CLICK HERE



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