Strategic public communication on Covid-19: Evidence from the French municipal elections in 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of public communication by municipalities. This study investigates how political incentives shape the content and the form of this communication around local elections. Based on agenda-setting theory and information processing theory, we expect more comprehensive communication about Covid-19 and a more positive tone of these disclosures in municipalities where a second ballot takes place. We apply topic modeling and sentiment analysis procedures to a rich dataset, including Facebook disclosures from all municipalities in mainland France around the first and second ballot of the 2020 French municipal elections. We use a difference-in-differences model to control for various invariant characteristics of the specific municipalities. In line with our expectations, our findings suggest that in municipalities where a second ballot took place, both the absolute quantity and the prevalence of Covid-19-related information on Facebook were higher. These municipalities also adopted a more positive tone in their Covid-19-related communication than municipalities where the mayor was already elected in the first ballot. The results suggest a strategic use of public communication on Covid-19 to obtain political benefits in municipal elections.

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This paper is published in Gestion et Management Public

Authors: Diego Ravenda & Dennis Voeller.

Diego Ravenda, professor
Dennis Voeller, professor

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