In Numbers We Trust–The Use of Statistics in Political News

Morten Tuomainen Steensberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This study examined the use of statistics in political news reporting in Denmark. As numbers are an integral part of modern-day politics and mediatisation of politics causes political actors to seek influence through the media, saturation of the news with potentially biased numbers is to be expected. Based on a quantitative analysis of 805 news articles in leading Danish newspapers, this study contributes to three different research fields: (1) the study of journalistic usage of statistics by answering whether the news is truly saturated by numbers, (2) the extensive research field of news sources by identifying the sources behind the numbers, and (3) transparency studies showing what information, if any, is found in the news that might help the audience critically evaluate the numbers reported. The study found that political news is indeed saturated with quantitative claims, that the sources behind the claims are often elite political actors, and that journalistic transparency is almost non-existent. The results indicated that political actors succeed in utilising the objective appearance of quantitative information as a means of slipping their agenda past journalistic scrutiny. When one speaks the language of experts, one gets treated like the experts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournalism Practice
VolumeLatest Articles
ISSN1751-2786
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Content analysis
  • Denmark
  • expert sources
  • news sources
  • political news
  • political sources
  • statistics
  • transparency

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