Terrorism and TV News Coverage in the 2001 Australian Election

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This paper draws on my research into the way voters in the 2001 Australian federal election used media-conveyed cues on the issues of terrorism, asylum-seekers and national security to judge Australia’s involvement in the war on terror and to evaluate John Howard and the Coalition Government. The 2001 Australian election was the first national election in the world held after the September 11 terrorist attacks – Howard calling the election just three weeks after the attacks, and six weeks after the Tampa asylum-seeker incident. The result was an election in which television news coverage gave, far and away, its greatest issue coverage to asylum seekers and to terrorism – issues that Howard fused into the theme of “border protection” – thereby providing high salience to national security issues that promised to benefit the incumbent Government in a time of external threat. And yet, television also gave substantial coverage to domestic issues, such as education, health and the GST, which had looked for most of the election year to be the basis for a Labor victory. As a result, the 2001 election affords a rare opportunity to explore media-conveyed cues about these two distinct issue domains, and the extent to which voters in the “era of terrorism” disproportionately utilise security fears as the basis for their electoral evaluations.


Keywords: Mass media Effects, Television Election Campaign Coverage, Voter Use of Media Issue Cues, Australian Elections
Stream: Politics, Public Policy and Law
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof. David Denemark

Associate Professor, Political Science and International Relations, University of Western Australia
Crawley, Western Australia, Australia

David Denemark is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Western Australia. His research areas of interest include electoral politics in Australia and New Zealand, election campaigns, and the impact of the mass media on voter decision-making. He is currently the lead editor of a recent book examining social and political attitudes using those survey data: Australian Social Attitudes 2: Citizenship, Work and Aspirations (UNSW Press, 2007). He has also just completed an Australian Research Council-funded project examining television news coverage of Australian election campaigns -- a journal article exploring the results appeared in the Australian Journal of Political Science, 2007. Overall, Denemark has published widely on electoral politics, election campaigns, and the mass media, including recently in the British Journal of Political Science, Party Politics, Electoral Studies and Political Research Quarterly.

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