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Incumbency Bonus in Election News Coverage Explained: The Logics of Political Power and the Media Market


David Nicolas Hopmann; e-mail:


This article investigates the determinants of the incumbency bonuses in news coverage. Two main factors are identified: the distribution of political power and changes in the media market. To test these assumptions, a content analysis of the news coverage of 5 national election campaigns in Denmark was conducted (4,592 news stories). First, the more unevenly political power is distributed, the more visible the government is. Second, results suggest a trade-off between the incumbency bonus and the coverage of nonsubstantive issues. Third, changes in news coverage seem to be more driven by changes in the political system than by changes in the media market. Finally, it is discussed how future research can further our understanding of political imbalances in news coverage.