Political implications of the different manifestations of politicization: Examining the news coverage of the EU in Greece and Portugal before and during the Eurozone crisis

Political implications of the different manifestations of politicization: Examining the news coverage of the EU in Greece and Portugal before and during the Eurozone crisis


This chapter presents a diachronic analysis of EU politicization in Greece and Portugal, before and after the Eurozone crisis. Focused exclusively on traditional media coverage of national legislative elections, our in-depth content analysis of EU politicization in these two countries sheds some light on the debate surrounding the consequences of politicization on national politics. More concretely, by comparing the cases of Portugal and Greece, we speculate on whether the salience and contestation surrounding the dimension of European integration might have hindered the accountability of national political systems. Two aspects make the comparison between these two countries relevant. On the one hand, Greece and Portugal, up until the Eurozone crisis, strongly resembled one another regarding EU attitudes and political/ party-system characteristics. More importantly, both countries were comparably affected by the crisis, having to resort to financial bailouts from the TROIKA,2 which led to equally steep increases in EU politicization during post-bailout national elections. On the other hand, when it comes to performance voting in those critical elections, mainstream/incumbent parties were only harshly punished by the Greek electorate.

Based on the existing studies on the domestic implications of EU politicization, our main argument is that differences in the two countries, in terms of the levels and nature of EU politicization, might also potentially explain the divergent electoral outcomes of the Eurozone crisis in Greece and Portugal. More concretely, our expectation is that the level of EU contestation during post-bailout elections was higher in Portugal, which, to a certain extent, has blurred the responsibility of national governments for the financial and economic crisis. We test this expectation with a manually coded dataset of 8,659 articles from eleven elections held between 2002 and 2015. We depart from existing comparative studies of the magnitude of politicization in two ways. The first way is by analysing all articles mentioning the EU rather than looking only at political parties’ statements or samples. Second, we examine not only salience and contestation but also the types, or manifestations, of the European integration dimension discussed in the media. Our results indeed confirm that, in substantive terms, the two countries politicized the EU in very different ways during the post-bailout critical elections. In light of what Camatarri and Gallina (chapter 2) found on the effects of citizens’ perceptions of the EU on voting behaviour, the potential role of differentiated versions of politicization becomes crucial.

The present chapter is structured in five sections. The first section after this introduction focuses on the concept of politicization, its implications for domestic politics, how it has been measured and, finally, its different manifestations/forms. The second section contextualizes the cases of Greece and Portugal, focusing on their political/party systems, their relationship with the EU and the political consequences of the Eurozone crisis in their national political systems. The third section of the chapter presents briefly the data and methods used, with the subsequent section detailing the results of our analysis. The final section of the chapter summarizes our main findings, reflecting on its potential implications, as well as its main limitations.