An Emotional Rally

Olga Eisele, Olga Litvyak, Verena K. Brändle, Paul Balluff, Andreas Fischeneder, Catherine Sotirakou, Kim Pamina Syed Ali, Hajo Boomgaarden

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unparalleled global crisis impacting both public and private life. In the situation of uncertainty, emotions run high and might compromise the public acceptance of and compliance with countermeasures tackling the crisis. Mass media play an integral part in communicating crisis measures and provide an institutionalised channel to diffuse relevant information to a broad audience. This is especially true for digital outlets of legacy media given the greater immediacy of coverage. In addition, digital news offers the unique opportunity for readers to engage with the news contents, allowing an analysis of the dynamics of emotional reactions to crisis news coverage. We explore the case of Austria as an early COVID-19 hotspot. We analyse digital news coverage of two high-circulation newspapers and the emotionality it prompted in user comments, based on a unique dataset comprising 38,253 articles and around 1.6 Million comments from 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2020. Results show increased emotionality during lockdown and towards the government. With reference to the rally around-the-flag literature, we interpret this as emotional rallying behind the responsible political crisis managers.

Department of Communication, Department of Government
External organisation(s)
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Universität Wien
Digital Journalism
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
508020 Political communication
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