February 13, 2017 – Media Motivation and Elite Rhetoric in Comparative Perspective
The exchange of diverse points of view in elite deliberation is considered a cornerstone of democracy. This study presents evidence that variations in political motivation for media use predict the tendency of politicians to present deliberative rhetoric that considers multiple points of view regarding issues and sees those views as related to one another. We surveyed 111 incumbent Members of Parliament in Belgium, Canada, and Israel and analyzed a large sample of their parliamentary speeches. The findings demonstrate that motivation to attain media coverage and act upon information from the news media leads politicians to strategically display simple and unidimensional rhetoric due to newsworthiness considerations, but only in countries where the media constitute important resources for reelection. The results contribute to extant literature by demonstrating a media effect on elite deliberation and by emphasizing the moderating role of political systems on the nature of elite rhetoric.