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Referendum campaigns in Swiss energy policy: a comparative analysis of media coverage and a case study of media influence on voting behavior


Rinscheid, Adrian; Udris, Linards (2022). Referendum campaigns in Swiss energy policy: a comparative analysis of media coverage and a case study of media influence on voting behavior. In: Hettich, Peter; Kachi, Aya. Swiss energy governance : political, economic and legal challenges and opportunities in the energy transition. Cham: Springer, 283-312.

Abstract

What are the patterns in media coverage in Swiss energy policy-making, and to what extent do the media influence voters’ decisions at the ballot? In a first step, this chapter provides a comparative investigation of media coverage in the run-up to three recent energy-related referenda (2015 initiative “Energy tax instead of VAT”; 2016 nuclear phase-out initiative; 2017 referendum on the federal Energy Strategy 2050), with 31 other referenda between 2014 and 2018 as a benchmark. Based on a content analysis of articles published in 21 Swiss newspapers, our analysis demonstrates that the three energy-policy referenda are characterized by patterns similar to non-energy votes but also have distinct features. In a second step, we specifically focus on the 2016 nuclear phase-out initiative, which was characterized by balanced newspaper reporting, and explain voting behavior by linking data on media coverage and individual-level data from a panel survey (n = 1014). The analysis relies on “linkage analysis”, a method that takes media contents as quasi-experimental stimuli to explain individual-level outcomes. We find that the failure of the phase-out initiative can be partly explained by exposure to newspaper coverage: one in four left-wing voters who had initially been in favor of the popular initiative but were exposed to strongly negative coverage about it during the “hot” campaign phase changed their initial voting intention. The analysis also suggests that the media coverage may have helped center/right-wing voters to learn about their preferred party’s position so as to align their vote choice with their political predisposition.

Abstract

What are the patterns in media coverage in Swiss energy policy-making, and to what extent do the media influence voters’ decisions at the ballot? In a first step, this chapter provides a comparative investigation of media coverage in the run-up to three recent energy-related referenda (2015 initiative “Energy tax instead of VAT”; 2016 nuclear phase-out initiative; 2017 referendum on the federal Energy Strategy 2050), with 31 other referenda between 2014 and 2018 as a benchmark. Based on a content analysis of articles published in 21 Swiss newspapers, our analysis demonstrates that the three energy-policy referenda are characterized by patterns similar to non-energy votes but also have distinct features. In a second step, we specifically focus on the 2016 nuclear phase-out initiative, which was characterized by balanced newspaper reporting, and explain voting behavior by linking data on media coverage and individual-level data from a panel survey (n = 1014). The analysis relies on “linkage analysis”, a method that takes media contents as quasi-experimental stimuli to explain individual-level outcomes. We find that the failure of the phase-out initiative can be partly explained by exposure to newspaper coverage: one in four left-wing voters who had initially been in favor of the popular initiative but were exposed to strongly negative coverage about it during the “hot” campaign phase changed their initial voting intention. The analysis also suggests that the media coverage may have helped center/right-wing voters to learn about their preferred party’s position so as to align their vote choice with their political predisposition.

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Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute for Research on the Public Sphere and Society
Dewey Decimal Classification:070 News media, journalism & publishing
Language:English
Date:2022
Deposited On:16 Dec 2021 13:25
Last Modified:16 Jun 2024 03:46
Publisher:Springer
ISBN:978-3-030-80786-3
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-80787-0_12
Other Identification Number:ganzes Buch: 10.1007/978-3-030-80787-0 (DOI); Online ISBN: 978-3-030-80787-0
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Description: Kapitel
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Description: Book
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)