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Americanization, European Styles or National Codes? The Culture of Election Campaigning in Western Europe, 1945–1990

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image of East Central Europe

The culture of election campaigning in postwar Western Europe allegedly has been shaped by a process of Americanization. In terms of political communication, Americanization has four distinct features: proximity of political marketing to commercial marketing, personalization and professionalization of campaigns, and media centered strategies. Based on an analyses of some European cultures of electioneering – Germany, Great Britain, and Italy – the main thesis of the paper is that the shared features are only to a smaller degree the results of American influences, but rather parallel trends due to structural commonalities like being medialized democracies in welfare and consumer societies, politically shaped by the Cold War context. The 1980s, however, meant a threshold: private media have risen across Europe and policy issues from the “new social movements” were pressured into the policy agenda. Although this has furthered the “Americanization” of European electioneering styles, at the same time several European elections point to an increased Europeanization of electioneering. On the whole, however, different national political cultures continue to modify and change American and European influences, creating local variations of campaigning.


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