Spin doctoring in British and German election campaigns: How the press is being confronted with a new quality of political PR

Frank Esser, Carsten Reinemann, Fan David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

The 1997 British and 1998 German general elections showed striking parallels and distinctive differences in the way Blair and Schroeder delivered their campaigns and defeated long-sitting conservative governments. Of vital importance was a new quality of political public relations called 'spin doctoring'. In this, the British Labour Party served as a kind of role model for the German Social Democratic Party. This article traces the origins and different meanings of 'spin doctoring' in both countries, distinguishes between media-related and non-media-related spin activities and analyses it against the background of the specific national contexts. The aims and methods of political spin doctors in modern election campaigns are described, particularly their half antagonistic, half symbiotic relationship with journalists. A comparative content analysis of the press coverage of the last general elections reveals that the two countries' journalists dealt with political spin doctors very differently. In Great Britain, 'spin doctoring high gear' predominated, in Germany it was 'spin doctoring low gear'. British journalists covered their efforts extensively and critically, mainly because some of them turned to unusually aggressive methods towards the media. German journalists were less likely to report extensively on spin doctoring. This can be explained by the fact that it is still in a stage of development in Germany and - for that very reason - that German journalists are still less interested in the strategic inner perspective of the electoral campaigning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-239
Number of pages31
JournalEuropean Journal of Communication
Volume15
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2000

Keywords

  • Election campaigns
  • Germany
  • Great britain
  • Spin doctoring

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Spin doctoring in British and German election campaigns: How the press is being confronted with a new quality of political PR'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this