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.