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Media Content and Political Behavior in Observational Research: A Critical Assessment


This article discusses possible issues of how media content and exposure were linked in previous research. It argues that the original conclusions of the article ‘Who's Afraid of Conflict? The Mobilizing Effect of Conflict Framing in Campaign News’ do not hold due to the chosen operationalization. It also demonstrates that using the proposed methodology, both exposure to conflictual and non-conflictual news yield the same substantive conclusion. In addition to re-evaluating the role of conflict, the article contributes to the discussion on how to integrate media and individual-level measures in the study of electoral behavior.

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University of Southern Denmark (emails, As both authors contributed equally, please address correspondence to both. We are grateful for comments by Martin Ejnar Hansen, Christian Schnaudt, Federico Vegetti and anonymous reviewers at the journal. Data replication sets are available at: and online appendices at

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Jason Barabas , and Jennifer Jerit . 2009. Estimating the Causal Effects of Media Coverage on Policy-Specific Knowledge. American Journal of Political Science 53 (1):7389.

Dennis Chong , and James N. Druckman . 2007. Framing Theory. Annual Review of Political Science 10:103126.

Susanna Dilliplane . 2014. Activation, Conversion, or Reinforcement? The Impact of Partisan News Exposure on Vote Choice. American Journal of Political Science 58 (1):7994.

Susanna Dilliplane , Seth K. Goldman , and Diana C. Mutz . 2013. Televised Exposure to Politics: New Measures for a Fragmented Media Environment. American Journal of Political Science 57 (1):236248.

Craig K. Enders , and Davood Tofighi . 2007. Centering Predictor Variables in Cross-Sectional Multilevel Models: A New Look at an Old Issue. Psychological Methods 12 (2):121138.

Kenneth Newton . 1999. Mass Media Effects: Mobilization or Media Malaise? British Journal of Political Science 29 (4):577599.

Markus Prior . 2009. Improving Media Effects Research Through Better Measurement of News Exposure. Journal of Politics 71 (3):893908.

Andreas R.T. Schuck , Hajo G. Boomgaarden , and Claes H. de Vreese . 2013. Cynics All Around? The Impact of Election News on Political Cynicism in Comparative Perspective. Journal of Communication 63 (2):287311.

Michael D. Slater 2004. Operationalizing and Analyzing Exposure: The Foundation of Media Effects Research. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 81 (1):168183.

Claes H. de Vreese , and Holli A. Semetko . 2002. Cynical and Engaged: Strategic Campaign Coverage, Public Opinion, and Mobilization in a Referendum. Communication Research 29 (6):615641.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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Supplementary Materials

Fazekas and Larsen supplementary material S1

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