The Influence of Issue Ownership Perceptions on Behavior of Journalists

Datum: 4 juli 2017

Locatie: Stadscampus, Hof van Liere, F. de Tassiszaal - Prinsstraat 13 - 2000 Antwerpen

Tijdstip: 16 uur

Organisatie / co-organisatie: FSW

Promovendus: Kirsten Van Camp

Promotor: Prof. dr. Stefaan Walgrave

Korte beschrijving: PhD verdediging Kirsten Van Camp - Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen


In the minds of people, policy issues and political parties are connected to each other. For example, when people are asked which party they think about when they think about the environment, many will respond with ‘the Green Party’; likewise ‘the Extreme Right Party’ is most likely the answer when asked which party first comes to mind when thinking about the topic of immigration. These associations between parties and topics are called issue ownerships.

Previous work has shown that issue ownership has an effect on both the electorate (people are more likely to vote for the party they associate with what they consider to be the most important problem in society) and political actors (political parties communicate more about their owned issues). However, little is known about how the third player in the political communication field, the media, is influenced by issue ownership. However, in contemporary society, the media take up an important intermediary role between political actors and the general public, making it important to investigate how precisely media contents come about. Therefore, this dissertation sets out to answer the following research question: Which role does issue ownership play in the selection of political actors as news sources during the journalistic news production process?  

By combining content analysis research of media coverage (television news items and newspaper articles) with experimental research among political journalists, this dissertation uses a multitude of methods to research the influence of journalists’ issue ownership perceptions on the news making process. Results of the different studies show that issue ownership plays a role in the considerations of political journalists during the source selection process. Political actors – both parties and individual politicians – are more likely to be selected as a news source – both for background information and for inclusion in news items – when they are (part of) the party that owns the topic of the news item. However, issue ownership does not seem to have an effect on how (positive or negative) political actors are portrayed in the news.