Priming religion: The effects of religious issues in the news coverage on public attitudes towards European integration

Communications 37 (1):29-54 (2012)
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Abstract

Religion can affect public support for the European Union. However, specifying the circumstances under which religion may become a stronger predictor of EU-support has so far been neglected. This article shows that the media play a role in this process and it is investigated to what extent the presence or absence of references to religious issues in EU news coverage primes people's religious attitudes to contribute to their evaluation of the EU. For this purpose, a content analysis of the amount of religious news items in EU coverage in German and Dutch newspapers between 1997 and 2007 was conducted. Two points in time were chosen — 1998, when only a small amount of religious news items appeared in EU coverage, and 2005, when religious items reached a peak. Eurobarometer data were used to test the media priming proposition. The findings show that an increasing religious dimension in media coverage about the EU primes a linkage between religious and political considerations and thus influences the strength of the impact of religion on attitudes towards the EU.

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