European union enlargement and British public opinion: The agenda-setting power of the press

Oya Dursun-Ozkanca, Elizabethtown College


While the British government was strongly in favour of the 2004 European Union (EU) enlargement, British public opinion was predominantly against it. Being conducted under the theoretical umbrella of agenda-setting research, this article scrutinizes the print media coverage of EU enlargement between 2002 and 2004 to account for the gap between public opinion and official policy. It combines quantitative content analysis of coverage in a number of leading British newspapers with Eurobarometer public opinion data. After revealing strong evidence for the transfer of issue salience from media to public, it examines the role of the press in shaping public attitudes toward enlargement. The results not only provide an improved understanding of media effects in the British context but also have profound implications for the 'democratic deficit' debate in the EU. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.