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Comparative determinants of horse-race coverage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 January 2014

Susan Banducci
Professor of Politics, College of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
Chris Hanretty*
Lecturer in Politics, School of Political, Social and International Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK


We investigate the levels of horse-race coverage in 160 different European print and broadcast outlets in 27 different countries at three different points in time. We match information on outlets’ content to survey-based information on the average levels of interest in politics and education of outlets’ audiences. We formulate hypotheses concerning journalists’ and citizens’ preferences over the ideal level of horse-race coverage, as well as hypotheses concerning the information content of horse-race coverage in different party systems. After controlling for the composition of each outlet’s audience, we find that horse-race coverage is most frequent in polarized party systems with close electoral contests, and in large markets with professional journalists. These findings challenge the traditional view of horse-race journalism as a ‘low-quality’ form of news.

Research Article
© European Consortium for Political Research 2014 

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