Banning burkas and niqabs? Exploring perceptions of bias in media coverage of Islam and Muslims in Switzerland and their relation to people’s voting intention concerning the burka-initiative
Keywords:hostile media effect, media bias, Islam and Muslims, burkas, niqabs, popular initiative "Yes to a veil ban", Switzerland
In Switzerland, Islam and Muslims are repeatedly the subject of political debates and, thus, of media reporting. While content analyses show a certain bias in Western media coverage of Islam and Muslims, relatively little is known about the audience’s perspective on media bias in this context. Using data from an online survey of the Swiss population (n = 976), this study examines people’s perceptions of bias in the media coverage of Islam and Muslims in Switzerland and how it relates to their intention to vote on the popular initiative “Yes to a veil ban”. The study was conducted in March 2019, two years before the actual vote took place on 7 March 2021. The results show that the majority of the Swiss non-Muslim population perceives the reporting as distorted. In the study’s investigation of media bias perceptions, attitudes towards Islam and Muslims, political orientation and personal contact with Muslims proved to be the most relevant influencing factors. By contrast, exposure to political information via traditional news media and social media was not associated with bias perceptions. Finally, a stronger perception that the media understate certain problems related to Islam and Muslims in Switzerland was positively related to people’s intention to vote for a national ban on wearing burkas or niqabs in public.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Dorothee Arlt
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