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Journalism, media studies and some politics | ALL ARTICLES
12 de June de 2023

Is it possible to relate abstentions and news deserts?

Jornais e desertos de notícias
Como os eleitores podem se informar para uma eleição?

News deserts (and semi-deserts) reach 78 of Portugal's 308 municipalities. If you add up those threatened, we have more than 50% of Portugal's municipalities with some problem. Given these numbers, the president of the Portuguese Press Association, João Palmeiro, asked a question: Can we relate abstentions and news deserts? In other words, where there is no local news, people are less interested in politics?

Labcom at the University of Beira Interior decided to answer João Palmeiro's question. First, a preliminary presentation, in October last year, at the congress of the European Association for Research and Education in Communication (ECREA). Now, in an article published in the magazine Social Sciences, signed by me and researchers Luísa Torre and Pedro Jerónimo. After all, is it possible to relate abstentions and news deserts?

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The answer is no. Preliminary data from October analyzed abstention rates in Portugal in the 2021 municipal (municipal) and 2022 legislative (national) elections. The article also analyzed the case in Brazil, where the 2022 presidential elections were analyzed. , data from the 2020 municipal elections in Brazil could not be used, as they took place in a very atypical situation, in the middle of a pandemic, which strongly affected the abstention rate.

Data analysis showed that it is not possible to make this correlation, that is, abstentions are not indicative that the absence of local news generates greater lack of interest among voters. Therefore, voters in a city where there is no local news production vote and are interested in politics. However, he does not have close access to information about the electoral process.

The conclusions of this research open space for further investigations. After all, how does a citizen of a city without local news get information to choose their vote? Does journalism no longer have the relevance it believes it has for citizenship and public decisions?

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