Polarization in the Spanish press: A study of political sectarianism during the COVID-19 pandemic


  • Roberto A. Valdeón University of Oviedo




Polarization, political sectarianism, media biases, El Mundo, El País, Abc


Drawing on the concept of “political sectarianism” proposed by Finkel et al. and on Entman’s classification of media biases, this paper aims to study polarization in three mainstream Spanish news websites, i.e. El País, El Mundo and Abc, during the COVID-19 pandemic through a cross-sectional analysis. For that purpose, a corpus of 900 articles was gathered during June 2020, following the end of the state of emergency and the strict lockdown enforced by the central government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis relies on concepts used by communication and discourse analysts, i.e. framing and narratives. I have also drawn on the work of Bednarek on semantic choices. The study, which focuses on the headlines and the leads, shows that El Mundo and Abc were more critical of the central government’s handling of the health crisis, while El País was critical of Madrid’s conservative government. This points to the existence of distortion and content bias in the three newspapers. However, the most significant finding is the fact that El País is the only medium that clearly opted for a selection bias, omitting any news that could have been construed as critical of the central coalition government.


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