Political Entertainment: A Mixed Methods Study of Media Framing in the US and UK
Elliott, Roxana Kate
This study looks at political coverage and media framing in two countries: the US and the UK. We focus on the entertainment frame of politics, which we define as including personal stories, scandal, soft news, and celebrity-related pieces. This research also explores how and why political coverage and media in general have changed over the past 20 years. To examine these questions, we perform an in-depth content analysis of newspaper coverage in the US and UK, which is supplemented by expert interviews and a US nationwide survey on media consumption habits. We found that, surprisingly, in the 2012 presidential election the US had just as much entertainment-framed coverage of politics as the UK, despite a much longer history of scandal and sensationalist coverage in the UK. The content analysis also told us that both UK and US newspapers were more favorable in their coverage to incumbent candidate Barack Obama. Through our interviews, we gained insight into why political coverage is the way it is, and found that technological advances have led to fierce competition between outlets, which often means they are more likely to report on "softer" pieces to attract an audience. Finally, we asked US citizens in our survey what media outlets they consume most often, and compared that to evaluations of politicians. We found that frequent readers of entertainment magazines are more likely to judge politicians on personal or sexual scandals, demonstrating the power of the media in shaping public opinion.
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