Anecdotally speaking, it feels like the following parties get a disproportionate amount of media coverage (where "disproportionate" merely means large compared to the proportion of the vote they get rather than a moral judgement), especially in international media or media for non hard-core nerds: National Front (France), AfD (Germany), Golden Dawn (Greece), UKIP (UK), the Party for Freedom (Netherlands), Freedom Party of Austria, and One Nation and also Clive Palmer (Australia). I'd also list Donald Trump in the USA, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, or the governing parties in Poland or Hungary, or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, but at least they're in the government. I'm not sure whether far-right and/or populist would be a accurate description for all of them, or maybe merely parties that may be on the receiving end of a cordon sanitaire, but their ability to gather media coverage seems similar.

Do far-right parties get a disproportionate amount of media coverage, and if so, why is that the case? Is it only from media organisations that are secretly in league with far-right politics, or even from those that don't support such politics?

Related question: Why are American elections and politics receiving so much coverage in Canadian and European media? (asked during the 2020 US presidential election)

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    Given how high some of these parties have polled (UKIP 13%), Golden Dawn (9.4%), Front Nationale Le Pen (21.3%), it's arguable that these parties have received disproportionately low coverage of their activities.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 15:28
  • Do not ignore that in some countries the media is under the control of the government, e.g. Turkey.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 13:01

3 Answers 3


Some far-right parties have made it their practice to break social and political norms of their respective country in an attempt to shift the political discourse to the right. (German source)

Media which has no agenda other than making money through advertising benefit from publishing outrageous behaviour. "Dog bites man" is no story, "man bites dog" is.

Some far-right parties are of course aware of this and use it, framing the social landscape by constant repetition of their talking points.

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    "Media which has no agenda other than making money..." - CNN, MSNBC, FOX, BBC, Sky, TF1 .... they all have no other agenda besides making short term money ? Yup sure
    – user35065
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 8:20
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    -1 This is a hypothetical (maybe plausible) explanation for why right-wing populist parties might receive disproportionate media attention. However, it does not at all answer the actual question, which is if in fact they receive disproportionate attention. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 8:20
  • @henning--reinstateMonica, the OP wrote "Is it only from media organisations that are secretly in league with far-right politics, or even from those that don't support such politics?" ...
    – o.m.
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 17:47

For what it's worth it, since you also mentioned populism, a 2018 study abstract:

A comparative content analysis of nine thousand stories from fifty-nine news outlets in ten European countries shows that both media factors (e.g., tabloid orientation) and political factors (e.g., response of mainstream parties) influence the extent and nature of populism in the media. Although newspapers in most countries do not overrepresent populist actors and tend to evaluate them negatively, we still find abundant populist content in the news. Several media outlets like to present themselves as mouthpieces of the people while, at the same time, cover politicians and parties with antiinstitutional undertones.

Skimming the paper, their list of populist parties comes from previous papers:

we rely on previous lists proposed by Mudde (2007), van Kessel (2015), and Rooduijn et al. (2014) to identify populist actors. We consider an actor to be populist if they are affiliated to a party which at least two of these authors listed as populist parties.

  • Mudde, Cas. 2007. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge University Press.
  • Rooduijn, Matthijs, Sarah L. de Lange, and Wouter van der Brug. 2014. “A Populist Zeitgeist? Programmatic Contagion by Populist Parties in Western Europe.” Party Politics 20 (4):563–75. doi:10.1177/1354068811436065.
  • van Kessel, Stijn. 2015. Populist Parties in Europe: Agents of Discontent? Palgrave Macmillan

The 2018 paper itself doesn't contain a full list, but it does have this table, which is indicative; of note they include some (populist) left-wing parties as well:

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And their analysis:

Table 3 shows the voter turnout of right-wing and left-wing populist parties and contrasts it with the frequency with which these parties have an opportunity to speak on the right-wing issue of migration and the left-wing issue of labor market policy. The percentage was calculated based on the total number of statements made by all political actors on each issue.

As the results in Table 3 indicate, the hypothesis was not confirmed over all countries and issues. Only in Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, we found the right-wing populist parties to be significantly overrepresented in stories about immigration. For most populist parties, however, we found a strong underrepresentation in news on their owned issues.


our results suggest that in countries where populist parties are excluded from any form of cross-party cooperation (Germany, France, Netherlands, and Sweden), journalists restrict the visibility of populist actors further than in other countries (Table 3). A test for group differences found that the average overrepresentation of populist parties is lower in systems with cordon sanitaire (+11.2 percent) than in those without (+19.3 percent); however, the high in-group variance and low number of cases prevent this difference from being statistically significant—T(14) = 0.08; ns.

(Frankly, a study like this is bound to be methodologically debatable, at least in corner cases. For instance, in that table, UKIP is scored on their national election vote share rather than EP election results, on which they did much better in the same timeframe.)

They also do a quantitative tone/sentiment analysis on the stories, which is far too long to detail here, but the authors' overall conclusions on that

most news outlets actively oppose populist actors. Members of populist parties are evaluated more negatively than other politicians and are actively challenged by journalists in their stories [...]

The most negative tone toward populist actors was found in the Netherlands [...] , and Sweden [...], which have an effective cordon sanitaire. Only in Austria, [...], and Bulgaria, [...], where populist parties have been part of the government, the tone toward populist actors was not significantly negative and was even slightly better than the tone toward other politicians. The cordon sanitaire explains 36.5 percent of the variance of tone toward populist actors, [...], in our sample. In conclusion, the representation of populist actors and their evaluation is lower in countries with a political cordon sanitaire.

As for the effect of the newspaper type, there were no surprises:

populist tendencies are stronger for tabloid than broadsheet newspapers—not only with regard to the initiator but also the gatekeeping and interpretive role—is in alignment with previous research and theory (Krämer 2014; Mazzoleni 2008; Moffitt 2016). Although cordon sanitaire is the most important political predictor, tabloid orientation is the most important media predictor for the extent and nature of populism in news.

A 2016 review about "Far Right Parties in Europe" doesn't alas point to any similar paper that would more directly answer your question on the far-right coverage, although it does have a section on the media, which cites various papers stating position principles on how the media should cover such parties and a few papers (mostly on the Dutch media) that discuss the difficulty of separating e.g. the topical discussion on immigration from the increase in popularity of such parties.

  • 1
    Interesting analysis. UKIP actually got the highest vote share for any party (over one third of seats) in UK in 2014 European Parliament elections
    – Matt
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 18:45
  • I assume this is looking largely at domestic media, right?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 11:17
  • @AndrewGrimm: if you mean the 2018 study, yes, for each country they considered a selection of various types (tabloid, "quality", and weekly) newspapers, but they don't have any results on cross-country media coverage, e.g. if a UK newspaper covered something involving actors/parties Greece it's not reflected in any stats in the paper, as far as I could tell. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 11:23
  • Any UK party result in EP elections in 2018 was rather bound to be non-representative of the actual support, what with the whole Brexit thing. Of note, populism != far-right - for Poland the study is missing Konfederacja, a heavily right-wing but economically conservative party, while it includes PiS which hardly falls under the "far-right" umbrella in Polish political climate. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 12:47
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    This could possibly benefit from a summary at the top? Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 14:39

Most centralist media is backed by individuals and corporations that favour the rich, as it is they who direct a lot of advertising revenue their way.

Featuring right-wing groups serves them in two ways:

  1. News is another form of entertainment, and as such, is in the business of getting people emotionally stirred up, for which right-wing groups, with their plethora of 'outlandish' statements, fits the bill. As Leslie Moonves of CBS said about Trump: 'It May Not Be Good for America, but It's Damn Good for CBS.'

  2. They serve as a distraction from the nefarious activities of their backers. It always helps to have someone worse to point to make oneself look better.

Right-wing groups want that attention. While others are focussed on them, those others are not doing anything concrete to counter them. Just have to see the number of YouTube channels devoted to calling out Trump, but really doing nothing to help shift focus way from him. Citing 'shouldn't dos' is not a plan for change.

Contrarily, the left wing has not really got that much attention, probably because:

  1. A lot of their agenda is already public knowledge, and would be -- and has in the past been -- public policy n the US if not for...

  2. Centrist media doesn't want to give them any 'air', as that would just highlight what the backers of those media outlets are trying to stop being public policies.

The right-wing agenda suits the corporate agenda of minimal public expenditure, except on them.

A lot of the left-wing agenda is public policy in many countries, just not favoured by right-wing governments, though they might have tried to dismantle some of them but met with resistance from the public who had come to appreciate the benefits of them.

Hardly any politicians in the US are leaning to the left, let alone being what could be called truly 'left-wing', though right-wingers will label centrists as left-wing, only if because they are compared to themselves.

Bernie Sanders is only mildly leaning to the left, but the policies he advocates are the standard public policy of many centrist-right governments.

  • 3
    -1 This is a hypothetical (maybe plausible) explanation for why right-wing populist parties might receive disproportionate media attention. However, it does not at all answer the actual question, which is if in fact they receive disproportionate attention. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 8:23
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    This does not answer the question. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 14:42
  • @henning--reinstateMonica,@JaredSmith. True, but getting actual statistics is going to be extremely difficult as it involves deciding which media to check, and what articles to check. An onerous task. I would have expected sites like factcheck.org would have have stats for what they have done, but they might have also found that task to be too onerous. annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/… discusses the difficulties of measuring bias.
    – Patanjali
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 9:26

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