Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – how the media looks to have driven rather than reflected public opinion in the case of Ukip.
Increased media coverage of Ukip drove increased support for the party rather than following an increase that had already happened, the new research suggests.
This finding comes from Justin Murphy and Daniel Devine in, “Does Media Coverage Drive Public Support for UKIP or Does Public Support for UKIP Drive Media Coverage?” in the British Journal of Political Science.
They found that (with my added emphasis):
In the United Kingdom’s first-past-the-post system, an ongoing political and regulatory debate revolves around whether the media give disproportionate coverage to the populist right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP).
This study uses a mixed-methods research design to investigate the causal dynamics of UKIP support and media coverage as an especially valuable case. Vector autoregression, using monthly, aggregate time-series data from January 2004 to April 2017, provides new evidence consistent with a model in which media coverage drives party support, but not vice versa.
The article identifies key periods in which stagnating or declining support for UKIP is followed by increases in media coverage and subsequent increases in public support.
The findings show that media coverage may drive public support for right-wing populist parties in a substantively non-trivial fashion that is irreducible to previous levels of public support, even in a national institutional environment least supportive of such an effect.
This matches up with other, earlier research:
Hat-tip: Tim Bale.