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The quality of referendum debate: the UK's electoral system referendum in the print media

Renwick, A. and Lamb, M. (2013) The quality of referendum debate: the UK's electoral system referendum in the print media. Electoral Studies, 32 (2). pp. 294-304. ISSN 0261-3794

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.electstud.2012.10.013


This paper analyses the quality of debate surrounding the UK’s 2011 electoral reform referendum as represented in the print media. It first considers how debate quality in the context of a referendum campaign may best be conceptualized. It then uses content analysis of media coverage to investigate three aspects of that debate: its quantity; the balance between Yes and No arguments, and the quality of reason-giving. It finds that the quantity of debate was comparable to other recent electoral reform referendums. Coverage was predominantly, but not overwhelmingly, hostile to change. The different indicators of the quality of reason-giving present a mixed picture. The paper concludes by considering how the analysis could be extended through further comparison with other cases.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:30547
Uncontrolled Keywords:referendum; electoral reform; quality of debate; United Kingdom; alternative vote

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