Selective Deafness of Political Parties: Strategic Responsiveness to Media, Protest and Real-World Signals on Immigration in Belgian Parliament

Ruud Wouters*, Julie Sevenans, Rens Vliegenthart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

How do political parties react to different signals from society indicating the saliency of a particular social problem? Are all parties equally responsive to all signals or do certain signals prove more effective in engaging some parties than others? We address these questions from an agenda-setting perspective. In particular, we investigate how media attention, protest activity and real-world signals shape parties' attention for immigration in the federal parliament of Belgium. A time series model suggests that media attention, protest activity and real-world indicators all increase parliamentary attention as measured by weekly oral questions. More detailed models show the impact of these signals to differ across parties. Media attention and protest activity engage left wing parties, whereas asylum applications drive political action of the party delivering the responsible secretary. Far-right parties, finally, react both to media attention and real-world indicators. We conclude that political parties are 'selectively deaf'; they act (or do not act) strategically upon incoming signals, depending on whether the signal fits their political goals or not. This article contributes to agenda-setting research by including multiple societal signals in its research design and by focusing on party characteristics and party competition to disentangle the conditionality of various agenda-setting effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-51
Number of pages25
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Volume74
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Agenda-setting
  • Immigration
  • Mass media
  • Parliamentary questions
  • Party competition
  • Protest

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