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Does Television Personalise Voting Behaviour? Studying the Effects of Media Exposure on Voting for Candidates or Parties


Christian Elmelund-Præstekær, Department of Political Science, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark. E-mail:


Scholars have long argued that politics has become personalised throughout the post Second World War era. Increasingly, focus shifts from policy to politicians' personal traits. The media – particularly television, it is argued – is the driving force in the process by focusing more on individual politicians and their personal traits than parties and their policy proposals. Empirically, it is not known whether the personalisation of media content affects the political behaviour of voters. Based on survey data from the 2009 Danish local elections (N = 3,336), this article explores the determinants of preferential voting – that is, voting for a specific candidate rather than a party. The findings show that institutional factors and individual characteristics are far better predictors of personalised voting behaviour than any measure of media exposure – and that viewing the main national news bulletins, as well as reading regional newspapers, have a similar positive effect. Thus, the study provides answers to the highly debated but rarely studied question of whether and how the media possibly personalise politics with regard to voting behaviour.