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Does Political PR Enhance or Trivialise Democracy? The UK General Election 2001 as Contest between Presentation and Substance

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Abstract:

Modern UK general election campaigns cannot be fully understood without assessing the role of political public relations by the major parties. They seek voter attention and commitment through the three 'P's of policy, personality and presentation. But presentation carries a health risk for democracy: does it illuminate or obscure policy and personality?

Monitoring and content analysis of the 2001 election suggests mixed benefits from political PR for politicians, voters and media but one firm conclusion for the latter two groups: making elections an informed and rational choice requires continuous scrutiny to see through the presentational trellis of political PR. Of all PR forms, political PR is the most influential because of its proximity to state and regulatory power: even so, its use in general elections cannot reverse declining electoral participation.
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