In their new article, published in the European Journal of Political Research, Georg Wenzelburger and Carsten Jensen take a closer look at mass media reporting on welfare state reforms. Building on news value theory and the welfare state reform literature, they argue that mass media attention is conditioned by the direction of reforms, the election platform that the incumbent party ran on in the last election and by the policy reputation of the government. Drawing on a new dataset including about 4,800 news articles in British, Danish, and German quality newspapers from 1995 to 2014, they find supporting evidence for their hypotheses.
First, it shows that articles on cutbacks are generally longer than those on expansions. Second, newspapers tend to cover reforms more extensively if they are implemented by governments which campaigned on a pro-welfare position, especially if the welfare state is cut. This effect can be seen in the figure below. Lastly, more reporting tends to take place when right-of-center parties implement reforms compared to left-of-center governments.
The article presents a systematic analysis of the underlying patterns of newspaper reporting on welfare state reforms and paves the way for future research on the relationship between public policy making and media attention.
Figure: Predicted number of words per article for cutbacks (hollow circles) and expansions (black circles).