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Keywords:

  • leadership traits;
  • media effects;
  • war in Iraq;
  • Tony Blair;
  • 2005 British election

Although party leaders are now assumed to play a more important role in parliamentary elections, little is known about how voters form opinions about leaders. In this article, we rely on theories of priming to investigate how media exposure influences leadership evaluations. The analysis is based on a unique examination of the nature and dynamics of leadership evaluations in Britain which combines survey data with media content data to investigate how perceptions of character traits, and media influence on perceptions of character traits, affect leadership evaluations. Our findings show that both the amount and the tone of newspaper media coverage can affect leadership evaluations which could result in a gain or loss in party support.