Media logic and voters' news preferences in an international news environment: the case of the European Union

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Dr Katjana Gattermann

Dr Katjana Gattermann


Professor Chris Anderson

Professor Chris Anderson

This paper sheds light on the question whether certain journalistic elements pertaining to media logic raise the interest of the audience.

It does so by studying audience preferences for online news headlines in an international news environment with a particular focus on the European Union. It puts forward hypotheses that tap the extent to which news headlines feature characteristics of personalized politics. To test the hypotheses, a novel and pre-registered conjoint survey experiment was conducted with 1,191 German respondents at the height of 2019 European Parliament election campaigns. Alongside headline attributes of subject (degree of personalization) and focus (national/EU-level/other European actors), the research design additionally controlled for the scope (policy, polity, politics) and online source. The findings suggest that news featuring institutions was most preferred, followed by news that either engages with individual politicians in their political function or with political parties. News involving the private persona of politicians was least preferred. Headlines featuring other European actors was less often chosen compared to headlines mentioning EU-level or national actors, although there was no difference among headlines referring to individual politicians in their political function. Likewise, the combination of politics with parties or individual politicians was least preferred compared to other combinations. The results are largely consistent across different considerations in the study design and different kinds of respondents’ characteristics. The findings have important implications for the applicability of media logic in the digital age.

Katjana Gattermann is Assistant Professor at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), Department of Communication Science, University of Amsterdam. She has previously held positions at the VU University Amsterdam and the University of Cologne. She received her PhD from the LSE European Institute in 2012. Her research interests comprise political communication and journalism, public opinion and political behaviour with a regional focus on the European Union. She is currently leading a VENI research project titled ‘Facing Europe: The personalization of European Union politics in news coverage and its consequences for democracy’, which is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. She is the Convenor of the ECPR Standing Group ‘Political Communication’, which she co-founded as a Research Network in 2017. Her work has appeared in journals such as the European Journal of Political Research, European Union Politics, the International Journal of Press/Politics, the Journal of European Public Policy, and West European Politics.

Chris Anderson is Professor in Politics and Policy at the European Institute, LSE.