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Hanspeter Kriesi, "Personalization of national election campaigns," Party Politics, 18 (November, 2012), 825-844. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
A growing literature points to the increasing 'personalization of politics'. On the one hand, this trend is attributed to the process of dealignment in the party system, which weakens the traditional attachments of citizens to political parties (Dalton et al., 2000: 37-54). On the other hand, it is said to be reinforced by the media which have developed their own 'media logic' for covering politics in general, and political campaigns in particular (Swanson and Mancini, 1996: 251). Personalization, just as negativity, conflict and drama, is one of the news values pursued by the mass media in their competition for a mass audience. With the weakening of traditional party loyalties, and the increasing role of the media in politics, the role of individual politicians and of politicians as individuals is said to have increased in all political systems. The alleged personalization refers to two related phenomena: a stronger focus on candidates/politicians instead of parties, institutions, or issues; and a change in the criteria for the evaluation of politicians, from features regarding their professional competence and performance to features concerning non-political personality traits.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Elections covered
Table 2. Selected newspapers
Table 3. Number of sentences coded: per country, source type and decade
Table 4. Personalization: share of individual personalities among the subject actors by country
Figure 1. Country-specific trends of personalization, percentages
Table 5. Concentration of personalization on top leaders, by country
Table 6. Development of concentration of personalization, percentage shares
Figure 4. Development of personalization of government and opposition actors, percentages by decade
Table 8. The effect of specific personalities and circumstances, percentage shares of top two mentions

Last Paragraph:
(First paragraph of conclusion) As I observed at the outset, the empirical evidence concerning the 'personalization of politics' thesis is at best mixed. My own results serve to reinforce this overall rather sceptical conclusion. This analysis has shown that, in the national elections in the six countries covered, there is neither a general trend towards increasing personalization in media coverage of electoral campaigns, nor a trend towards increasing concentration of the media coverage on a limited set of top political leaders ('presidentialization'). Among the six countries, the exception to this overall assessment is the Netherlands, where I found both a trend towards increasing personalization in general, and an increasing concentration of the public attention on a limited set of personalities. The Dutch trend is already noticeable in the 1990s and cannot be attributed, as some may have expected, to the campaign by Pim Fortuyn in 2002.

Last updated November 2012