The Spiral of Euroscepticism: Media Negativity, Framing and Opposition to the EU

Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology book series (PSEPS)


Media scholars have increasingly examined the effects of a negativity bias that applies to political news. In the ‘spiral of cynicism’, journalist preferences for negative news correspond to public demands for sensational news. We argue that this spiral of cynicism in EU news results in a ‘spiral of Euroscepticism’, taking media autonomy seriously to understand how media logics and selective devices contribute to the shaping of public discourse about the EU. We review the literature on the media and EU legitimacy to show how media frames and their amplification on social media can account for the salience of Eurosceptic opinions in the public sphere that then push parties to contest the EU in predominantly negative terms.


Euroscepticism Media Political cynicism Negativity bias Framing Social media 


  1. Adam, S. 2009. Euroscepticism and the Mass Media. An Analysis of the Form of Contention in the German and French Debates on a European Constitution. In Euroscepticism. Images of Europe Among Mass Publics and Political Elites, ed. D. Fuchs, R. Magni-Berton, and A. Roger, 193–211. Opladen: Barbara Budrich Publishers.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, P.J., and A. Weymouth. 1999. Insulting the Public: The British Press and the European Union. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bohle, R.H. 1986. Negativism as News Selection Predictor. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 63(4): 789–796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brüggeman, M. 2010. Information Policy and the Public Sphere EU Communications and the Promises of Dialogue and Transparency. Javnost-The Public 17(1): 5–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brundidge, J., and R.E. Rice. 2009. Political Engagement Online: Do the Information Rich Get Richer and the Like-Minded More Similar? In Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics, ed. A. Chadwick and P.N. Howard, 144–156. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bruns, A. 2010. From Reader to Writer: Citizen Journalism as News Produsage. In The International Handbook of Internet Research, ed. J. Hunsinger, L. Klastrup, and M. Allen, 119–133. Dordrecht/London: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Caiani, M., and D. della Porta. 2011. The Elitist Populism of the Extreme Right: A Frame Analysis of Extreme Right-Wing Discourses in Italy and Germany. Acta Politica 46: 180–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cappella, J.N., and K.H. Jamieson. 1997. Spiral of Cynicism: The Press and the Public Good. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Clark, N. 2014. The EU’s Information Deficit: Comparing Political Knowledge Across Levels of Governance. Perspectives on European Politics and Society 15(4): 445–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Couldry, N. 2012. Media, Society, World. Social Theory and Digital Media Practice. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  11. Cram, L. 2015. How Remain and Leave Camps Use #Hashtags, The UK in a Changing Europe, 17th November 2015. Accessed 27 May 2016.
  12. Crigler, A., M. Just, and T. Belt. 2006. The Three Faces of Negative Campaigning: The Democratic Implications of Attack Ads, Cynical News, and Fear-Arousing Messages. In Feeling Politics: Emotion in Political Information Processing, ed. D.P. Redlawsk. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Daddow, O.J. 2012. The UK Media and ‘Europe’: From Permissive Consensus to Destructive Dissent. International Affairs 88(6): 1219–1236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Daddow, O. 2016. Project Fear Is the Legacy of Decades of Euroscepticism. Dare Cameron Make a Positive Case for the EU? LSE BrexitVote. Accessed 27 May 2016.
  15. de Vreese, C.H. 2004. The Effects of Strategic News on Political Cynicism, Issue Evaluations and Policy Support: A Two-Wave Experiment. Mass Communication and Society 7(2): 191–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. ———. 2007. A Spiral of Euroscepticism: The Media’s Fault? Acta Politica 42(2/3): 271–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. de Vreese, C.H., and A. Kandyla. 2009. News Framing and Public Support for a Common Foreign and Security Policy. Journal of Common Market Studies 47(3): 453–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. de Vreese, C.H., and M. Tobiasen. 2007. Conflict and Identity: Explaining Turnout and Anti-integrationist Voting in the Danish 2004b Elections for the European Parliament. Scandinavian Political Studies 30(1): 87-114Google Scholar
  19. de Vreese, C., J. Peter, and H.A. Semetko. 2001. Framing Politics at the Launch of the Euro: A Cross-National Comparative Study of Frames. News Political Communication 18: 107–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. de Vries, C.E., and E.E. Edwards. 2009. Taking Europe to Its Extremes: Extremist Parties and Public Euroscepticism. Party Politics 15(1): 5–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. de Wilde, P., A. Michailidou, and H.-J. Trenz. 2013. Contesting Europe: Exploring Euroscepticism in Online Media Coverage. Colchester: ECPR Press.Google Scholar
  22. Díez Medrano, J. 2003. Framing Europe : Attitudes to European Integration in Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Dostal, J. M. 2015. The Pegida Movement and German Political Culture: Is Right-Wing Populism Here to Stay? The Political Quarterly, 86(4): 523-531Google Scholar
  24. Dunaway, J.L., N.T. Davis, J. Padgett, and R.M. Scholl. 2015. Objectivity and Information Bias in Campaign News. Journal of Communication 65(5): 770–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Entman, R.M. 2004. Projections of Power. Framing News, Public Opinion and US Foreign Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Ford, R., M.J. Goodwin, and D. Cutts. 2012. Strategic Eurosceptics and Polite Xenophobes: Support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the 2009 European Parliament Elections. European Journal of Political Research 51(2): 204–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fuchs, C. 2014. Social Media and the Public Sphere. Journal for Global Sustainable Information Society 12(1): 57–101.Google Scholar
  28. Gale, P. 2004. The Refugee Crisis and Fear: Populist Politics and Media Discourse. Journal of Sociology 40(4): 321–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Galpin, C. 2015. Has Germany “Fallen Out of Love” with Europe? The Eurozone Crisis and the ‘Normalization’ of Germany’s European Identity. German Politics and Society 33(1/2): 25–41.Google Scholar
  30. ———. 2017. The Euro Crisis and European Identities: Political and Media Discourse in Germany, Ireland, Poland. Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  31. Galtung, J., and M.H. Ruge. 1965. The Structure of Foreign News: The Presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus Crises in Four Norwegian Newspapers. Journal of Peace Research 2(1): 64–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gavin, N.T. 2001. British Journalists in the Spotlight: Europe and Media Research. Journalism 2(3): 299–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Golding, P., H. Sousa, and L. van Zoonen. 2012. Trust and the Media. European Journal of Communication 27(1): 3–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hannerz, U. 2004. Foreign News. Exploring the World of Foreign Correspondents. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. Haßler, J. 2015. One-Sided Discussions: Deliberation in Weblogs During the 2009 National Election. German Politics 24(4): 542–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hughey, M.W., and J. Daniels. 2013. Racist Comments at Online News Sites: A Methodological Dilemma for Discourse Analysis. Media, Culture & Society 35(3): 332–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kepplinger, H.M. 1998. Die Demontage der Politik in der Informationsgesellschaft. Freiburg/München: Alber.Google Scholar
  38. Kepplinger, H.M., S. Geiss, and S. Siebert. 2012. Framing Scandals: Cognitive and Emotional Media Effects. Journal of Communication 62(4): 659–681.Koopmans, R., & Statham, P. 2010. The Making of a European Public Sphere : Media Discourse and Political Contention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Lau, R.R., L. Sigelman, and I.B. Rovner. 2007. The Effects of Negative Political Campaigns: A Meta-Analytic Reassessment. Journal of Politics 69(4): 1176–1209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lengauer, G., F. Esser, and R. Berganza. 2011. Negativity in Political News: A Review of Concepts, Operationalizations and Key Findings. Journalism 13(2): 179–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Leveson, T.R.H.L.J. 2012. An Inquiry Into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press. London. Accessed 27 May 2016.
  42. Loader, B.D., and D. Mercea. 2012. Social Media and Democracy. Innovation in Participatory Politics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Michailidou, A. 2016. ‘The Germans Are Back’: Euroscepticism and Anti-Germanism in Crisis-Stricken Greece. National Identities 1–18.Google Scholar
  44. Michailidou, A., and H.J. Trenz. 2014. The Mediatisation of Politics. From the National to the Transnational, Partecipazione e Conflitto. Journal of Sociopolitical Studies 7(3): 469–498.Google Scholar
  45. Michailidou, A., H.J. Trenz, and P. De Wilde. 2014. The Internet and European Integration. Pro- and Anti-EU Debates in Online News Media. Opladen: Barbara Budrich Publisher.Google Scholar
  46. Newman, N., R. Fletcher, D.A.L. Levy, and R.K. Nielsen. 2016. Digital News Report 2016. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Oxford: University of Oxford. Accessed 25 June 2016.
  47. Ntampoudi, I. 2013. The Good Guys, The Bad Guys and The Ugly Debt: The Eurozone Crisis and the Politics of Blaming. Paper presented at the Germany as a Global Actor: Annual Workshop of the German Politics Specialist Group (GPSG) of the PSA Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham.Google Scholar
  48. Örnebring, H. 2013. Questioning European Journalism. Journalism Studies 10(1): 2–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Patterson, T. E. 2000. Doing Well and Doing Good : How Soft News and Critical Journalism Are Shrinking the News Audience and Weakening Democracy–and What News Outlets Can Do About It. John F. Kennedy School of Government Faculty Research Working Papers Series, RWP01-001.
  50. Quinlan, S., M. Shephard, and L. Paterson. 2015. Online Discussion and the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum: Flaming Keyboards or Forums for Deliberation? Electoral Studies 38: 192–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Risse, T. 2014. European Public Spheres: Politics Is Back. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rowinski, P. 2014. Euroscepticism in the Berlusconi and Murdoch. Journalism Press – 29 July 2014.Google Scholar
  53. Ruparel, R. 2016. Project Fear Meets Project Fear? Open Europe. Retrieved from Accessed 27 May 2016.
  54. Scheufele, B. 2008. Die These der Negativitätsumkehrung: Ein Experiment zur Wirkung von Negativität in den Politiker- und Problemdarstellungen von Printmedie. Publizistik 53(1): 48–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schimmelfennig, F. 2014. European Integration in the Euro Crisis: The Limits of Postfunctionalism. Journal of European Integration 36(3): 321–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Snow, D.A., and R.D. Benford. 1988. Ideology, Frame Resonance and Participant Mobilization. International Social Movement Research 1: 197–219.Google Scholar
  57. Soroka, S.N. 2014. Negativity in Democratic Politics: Causes and Consequences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Soroka, S.N., L. Young, and M. Balmas. 2015. Bad News or Mad News? Sentiment Scoring of Negativity, Fear, and Anger in News Content. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 659(1): 108–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Startin, N. 2015. Have We Reached a Tipping Point? The Mainstreaming of Euroscepticism in the UK. International Political Science Review 36(3): 311–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stroud, N.J., E. Van Duyn, and C. Peacock. 2016. News Commenters and News Comment Readers. Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, The University of Texas at Austin. Accessed 27 May 2016.
  61. Tandoc, E. C. 2014. Journalism Is Twerking? How Web Analytics Is Changing the Process of Gatekeeping. New Media & Society 16: 559-575.Google Scholar
  62. Tarta, A. 2014. Social Media and the European Public Sphere. PhD Thesis, Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  63. Trenz, H.-J. 2008. Understanding Media Impact on European Integration: Enhancing or Restricting the Scope of Legitimacy of the EU? Journal of European Integration 30(2): 291–309.Google Scholar
  64. Triandafyllidou, A. 1998. National Identity and the ‘Other’. Ethnic and Racial Studies 21(4): 593–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Usherwood, S., and K. Wright 2016. Fighting the EU Referendum Online: Strategies, Frames and Successes. Open Democracy, 8th March 2016. Retrieved from Accessed 27 May 2016.
  66. Valkenburg, P.M., H.A. Semetko, and C.H. d Vreese. 1999. The Effects of News Frames on Readers’ Thoughts and Recall. Communication Research 26(5): 550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. van Brussel, A. 2014. From Informing to Interacting? Exploring the European Commission’s Communication Strategy “To Be All Ears”. Journal of Contemporary European Research 10(1): 90–104.Weber, P. 2013. Discussions in the Comments Section: Factors Influencing Participation and Interactivity in Online Newspapers' Reader Comments. New Media & Society, 16(6), 941-957.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.ARENAUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations