This study investigates to what extent specific features of news articles about election campaigns impact reader engagement and civility in news comments. Using content analysis of articles (N=830) and comments (N=29,421) published during the 2015 Portuguese Legislative elections, we test the impact of negative coverage, issue coverage and game coverage (politics as a game) on the number of comments that an article receives and the level of civility thereof. Additionally, we explore how affective polarisation of a commenter may moderate the effects on incivility. Findings show that negativity towards political actors in an article is tied to both an increase in the number of comments and their level of incivility. Game coverage only led to a significant increase in the number of comments, while actor-related positivity was also related to an increase in incivility. Issue coverage had neither positive nor negative effects. The results inform newsrooms and academics about the implications of different types of election reporting, while accounting for features of news articles that are typically not integrated in a single study

Affective polarisation, audience engagement, content analysis, elections, incivility, political journalism, user comments,
Department of Media and Communication

Ferreira Gonçalves, J.F. (2020). How to report on elections? The effects of game, issue and negative coverage on reader engagement and incivility. Journalism. doi:10.1177/1464884920958367