Pointing Fingers at the Media?

Coverage of the 2017 Bundestag Election

in German Politics and Society
Alexander BeyerSimon Fraser University abeyer@sfu.ca

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Steven WeldonSimon Fraser University sweldon@sfu.ca

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The 2017 Bundestag election and the breakthrough of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) will likely long be remembered as a pivotal moment in German politics. One of the key questions in the aftermath of this breakthrough is what role the mainstream media played in this party’s success. Drawing on online data from the four largest German news outlets, Google-trend searches, and Twitter, we examine the media coverage landscape over the course of the election campaign, focusing on the coverage of the AfD relative to other parties and its key issues of immigration and Euroskepticism. Our results indicate that the AfD did indeed face a favorable media environment, especially in the final month of the campaign. Further analysis, however, suggests that the media was in many ways simply responding to public interest and demand—immigration, especially, was a highly salient issue throughout the campaign, something that was a significant departure from recent elections.

Contributor Notes

Alexander Beyer is a PhD student in Political Science at Simon Fraser University. His primary research interests are in comparative political behavior and media in North America and Europe with a focus on the application of social data analytics. E-mail: abeyer@sfu.ca

Steven Weldon is Associate Professor of Political Science at Simon Fraser University. His research focuses on political representation, extremism, and elections in advanced democracies, and has been published in, among others, the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, European Journal of Political Research, and Party Politics. E-mail: sweldon@sfu.ca

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