Campaign: A Content Analysis of the New Zealand-based Chinese Language Ethnic Media’s Coverage of the 2008, 2011 and 2014 New Zealand General Elections
New Zealand’s ethnic Chinese population has grown significantly since the selection criteria of immigrants shifted from being defined by ethnic or national origin to personal merit in 1987. The ease with which non-citizens can vote in New Zealand, and the potential of New Zealand’s Mixed Member Proportional electoral system to amplify the political impact of minority groups means that informing this growing demographic is crucially important. Many recent migrants are prevented by language barriers from accessing English language news. Consequently, the Chinese language ethnic media constitute the key source of political information for many ethnic Chinese voters. Because of this, these media are expected to provide a civic forum for pluralistic debate enabling those with the right to vote to do so in a way that is congruent with their political and social preferences. Despite their importance, the ethnic Chinese language ethnic media in New Zealand have been the subject of few studies. In response, this thesis utilises the method of content analysis to examine civic forums provided by the Chinese Herald, Home Voice, and the New Zealand Messenger during the 2008, 2011 and 2014 general election campaigns. The findings indicate that political coverage deviated from the normative expectations of the civic forum in a number of ways, including a strong incumbency bias – particularly when the National Party was in power; high levels of favourable coverage towards the ACT Party and the consequent marginalisation of many other parties. In addition, National Party candidate Yang Jian occupied a position of unique visibility during the 2014 election campaign while New Zealand First were subject to high levels of negative coverage. These normative deviations, possibly stemming from the resource constraints that the newspapers operate within and coupled with their role as ethnic media outlets serving and advocating for minority groups, can hamper the readership’s capacity for meaningful electoral participation.