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Title: Gender and press coverage in 2015 and 2016 UK political campaigns
Author: Rek, Beata
ISNI:       0000 0004 7234 3299
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis investigates the role of gender in the media coverage of selected political campaigns taking place in the UK in years 2015-2016. Although the literature on this topic is extensive, the findings of the existing studies are equivocal. While there dominates a perception of the existence of differences in volume and substance of coverage depicting men and women candidates, some studies challenge those findings. Moreover, in the UK, there is a deficiency of systematic studies on the subject, while the existing ones are limited when it comes to the media image of women candidates standing for higher political offices, as well as the role of local media. This research accounts for both the national as well as local press, providing a new and unique perspective. It also explores the perception of the candidates during different types of election - from an election for MPs at local constituency level (2015 general election), to those for party leaders and prime ministerial office (2015 Labour leadership and 2016 Conservative leadership elections). To derive robust inferences, the study investigates both volume and substance of the press coverage collected from 37 digital press titles using a unique, computerised system developed for the sole purpose of this thesis. The data analysis involves elements of statistics, complemented with a qualitative investigation of articles, as well as interviews with parliamentary candidates, to provide a more in-depth interpretation of the quantitative findings. This thesis concludes that in most cases the visibility of women candidates was not compromised. Furthermore, the analysis of coverage substance reveals that typically, albeit not universally, the press was gender-neutral. While it has been observed that in some isolated cases gender bias against women candidates still existed, these instances were rare and unsystematic, the amount of such coverage was inconsiderable, while in a few instances it was the men candidates who received gender-biased coverage. Therefore, this research argues that the perception of the omnipresent gender-bias against women might not be a true reflection of present reality. This work also suggests that the media scrutiny might not be reserved solely for women, and that candidates could introduce gender-related issues themselves as a part of a political campaign. This PhD suggests that the biased media coverage of women political candidates does not seem to be the causal pathway to their under-representation in politics. Furthermore, it suggests that women themselves can, at least in part, control the content of their media coverage and thus steer the campaigns in the desired direction. While this thesis does not claim that sexism in the media is entirely absent, nor that it has not been a barrier to the world of politics in the past, it concludes that nowadays the media could be less gender-biased that it used to be thought. It is hoped that this positive result may encourage more women to enter the world of politics in the future.
Supervisor: Murphy, Justin M. ; Ibenskas, Raimondas ; Corbett, Jack ; Kelso, Alexandra Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available