Coverage of Presidential Elections in Kazakhstan and Ukraine by Russian Media

Coverage of Presidential Elections in Kazakhstan and Ukraine by Russian Media

Koltsova O.Yu.,

National Research University Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russia,

elibrary_id: 786332 | ORCID: 0000-0002-2669-3154 | RESEARCHER_ID: C-1891-2016

Judina D.I.,

St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia,

elibrary_id: 868784 | ORCID: 0000-0002-6603-0697 | RESEARCHER_ID: ABC-7801-2020

Pashakhin S.V.,

research assistant at the Social and Cognitive Informatics Laboratory, HSE Univesity, spashahin@hse

ORCID: 0000-0003-0361-2064 | RESEARCHER_ID: V-1803-2018

Kolycheva A.V.,

National Research University Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russia,

elibrary_id: 792307 | ORCID: 0000-0001-9530-7184 | RESEARCHER_ID: R-5199-2016

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2021.06.07

For citation:

Koltsova O.Yu., Judina D.I., Pashakhin S.V., Kolycheva A.V. Coverage of Presidential Elections in Kazakhstan and Ukraine by Russian Media. – Polis. Political Studies. 2021. No. 6. P. 89-107. (In Russ.).

This work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (grant number 19-18-00206).


Manifestations of political bias in media coverage of political events abroad, despite a large volume of research, have been only partially investigated. First, relevant studies nearly never examine how such coverage might be affected by conflicts between the countries whose media are studied and the countries covered by these media, as compared to non-conflict configurations. Second, systematic bias is usually seen as an attribute of a country’s media system as a whole, without attempts to investigate differences between specific media types within the same country. In this paper, we take a first step to address these gaps by studying how framing of elections in a country that has no conflict with Russia (Kazakhstan) and a country that does have such conflict (Ukraine) varies in different types of Russian media: those controlled by the state, liberal-oppositional and politically neutral. For this purpose, 30 popular online news outlets were selected and divided into the three aforementioned types by experts. From the totality of the news published in these media, we formed a sample of 792 news items devoted to the presidential elections in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan, so that all three media types would be equally represented. All news items were labeled into one of three framing types: pro-government, liberal and neutral. Prevalence of one of the extreme framing types in a given group of media was considered as a manifestation of systematic bias. The research has shown that pro-government bias is observed only in one, albeit dominant, group of media outlets – those controlled by the state. In the other two groups it is the neutral frame that prevails, suggesting that a large portion of the Russian audience has access to a non-pro-government way of framing international political events. However, the coverage of Ukrainian and Kazakhstan elections has been found to be visibly different. In the coverage of Ukraine, the distribution of shares of all three frame types in all three groups of media is shifted in the pro-government direction compared to the coverage of Kazakhstan. Simultaneously, texts by the oppositional media about Kazakhstan turn out to be the only group of news where the liberal frame prevails (and, therefore, the liberal bias is observed). The coverage of a non-conflict country appears to be more polarized than that of a country which has a conflict with the country of the studied media. A number of interpretations for this observation are given in the paper. 

political media bias, systematic bias frame analysis, media agenda, topic modeling, Russian media, online media, election.


Baden C., Tenenboim-Weinblatt K. 2018. The Search for Common Ground in Conflict News Research: Comparing the Coverage of Six Current Conflicts in Domestic and International Media over Time. – Media, War & Conflict. Vol. 11. No. 1. P. 22-45.

Barthel M., Bürkner H.J. 2020. Ukraine and the Big Moral Divide: What Biased Media Coverage Means to East European Borders. – Geopolitics. Vol. 25. No. 3. P. 633-657.

Baum M.A., Zhukov Y.M. 2015. Filtering Revolution: Reporting Bias in International Newspaper Coverage of the Libyan Civil War. – Journal of Peace Research. Vol. 52. No. 3. P. 384-400.

Blei D.M., Lafferty J.D. 2009. Topic Models. – In Text Mining: Classification, Clustering, and Applications. CRC Press. P. 71-94.

Bloch-Elkon Y. 2007. Studying the Media, Public Opinion, and Foreign Policy in International Crises: The United States and the Bosnian Crisis, 1992-1995. – Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics. Vol. 12. No. 4. P. 20-51.

Brewer P.R. 2006. National Interest Frames and Public Opinion About World Affairs. – Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics. Vol. 11. No. 4. P. 89-102.

Brown J.D. 2014. ‘Better One Tiger Than Ten Thousand Rabid Rats’: Russian Media Coverage of the Syrian Conflict. – International Politics. Vol. 51. No. 1. P. 45-66.

Busygina I., Filippov M., Taukebaeva E. 2018. To Decentralize or to Continue on the Centralization Track: The Cases of Authoritarian Regimes in Russia and Kazakhstan. – Journal of Eurasian Studies. Vol. 9. No. 1. P. 61-71.

Campbell J. L., Quincy C., Osserman J., Pedersen O. K. 2013. Coding in-Depth Semistructured Interviews: Problems of Unitization and Intercoder Reliability and Agreement. – Sociological Methods & Research. Vol. 42. No. 3. P. 294-320.

D’Alessio D., Allen M. 2000. Media Bias in Presidential Elections: A Meta‐Analysis. – Journal of Communication. Vol. 50. No. 4. P. 133-156.

DiMaggio P., Nag M., Blei D. 2013. Exploiting Affinities Between Topic Modeling and the Sociological Perspective on Culture: Application to Newspaper Coverage of Us Government Arts Funding. – Poetics. Vol. 41. No. 6. P. 570-606.

Dimitrova D.V., Kaid L.L., Williams A.P., Trammell K.D. 2005. War on the Web: The Immediate News Framing of Gulf War II. – Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics. Vol. 10. No. 1. P. 22-44.

Dokuka S., Koltcov S., Koltsova O., Koltsov M. 2018. Echo Chambers vs Opinion Crossroads in News Consumption on Social Media. – In International Conference on Analysis of Images, Social Networks and Texts. Cham: Springer. P. 13-19.

Durante R., Knight B. 2012. Partisan Control, Media Bias, and Viewer Responses: Evidence from Berlusconi’s Italy. – Journal of the European Economic Association. Vol. 10. No. 3. P. 451-481. https://doi. org/10.1111/j.1542-4774.2011.01060.x

Entman R.M. 1993. Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm. – Journal of Communication. Vol. 43. No. 4. P. 51-58.

Entman R.M. 2007. Framing Bias: Media in the Distribution of Power. – Journal of Communication. Vol. 57. No. 1. P. 163-173.

Gentzkow M., Shapiro J.M. 2010. What Drives Media Slant? Evidence From Us Daily Newspapers. – Econometrica. Vol. 78. No. 1. P. 35-71.

Griffiths T. L., Steyvers M. 2004. Finding Scientific Topics. – PNAS. Vol. 10. No. suppl. 1. P. 5228-5235.

Groeling T. 2013. Media Bias by the Numbers: Challenges and Opportunities in the Empirical Study of Partisan News. – Annual Review of Political Science. Vol. 16. P. 129-151.­nurev-polisci-040811-115123

Hallin D.C., Mancini P. 2004. Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Herman E.S., Chomsky N. 1989. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. NY: Random House.

Hofstetter C.R. 1976. Bias in the News: Network Television Coverage of the 1972 Election Campaign. Colombus, OH: The Ohio State University Press.

Iyengar S., Kinder D.R. 1987. News that Matters: Television and American Opinion. University of Chicago: Press.

Kazun A.D. 2020. Agenda-Setting in Russian Media. – International Journal of Communication. Vol. 14. P. 4739-4759.

Kempf W. 2002. Conflict Coverage and Conflict Escalation. – Journalism and The New World Order. Ed. by W. Kempf, H. Luostarinen. Nordicom. Vol. 2. P. 59-72.

Koltcov S., Koltsova O., Nikolenko S. 2014. Latent Dirichlet allocation: Stability and applications to studies of user-generated content. – Proceedings of the 2014 ACM conference on Web science (WebSci ‘14). New York: ACM Press. P. 161-165.

Koltsova O., Nagornyy O. 2019. Redefining Media Agendas: Topic Problematization in Online Reader Comments. – Media and Communication. Vol. 7. No. 3. P. 145-156.

Koltsova O., Pashakhin S. 2020. Agenda Divergence in a Developing Conflict: Quantitative Evidence from Ukrainian and Russian TV Newsfeeds. – Media, War & Conflict. Vol. 13. No. 3. P. 237-257.

Korenčić D., Ristov S., Šnajder J. 2015. Getting the Agenda Right: Measuring Media Agenda Using Topic Models. – Proceedings of the 2015 Workshop on Topic Models: Post-Processing and Applications. ACM. P. 61-66.

Lichter S.R. 2017. Theories of Media Bias. – Oxford Handbook of Political Communication. Ed. by K. Kensky, K.H. Jamieson. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P. 403-416.

Lipman M. 2014. Russia’s Nongovernmental Media Under Assault. – Demokratizatsiya. Vol. 22. No. 2. P. 179-190.

Luo Y., Burley H., Moe A., Sui M. 2019. A meta-analysis of news media’s public agenda-setting ef­fects, 1972-2015. – Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. Vol. 96. No. 1. P. 150-172.

Makhortykh M., Sydorova M. 2017. Social Media and Visual Framing of the Conflict in Eastern Ukraine. – Media, War & Conflict. Vol. 10. No. 3. P. 359-381.

McCombs M. 2014. Setting the Agenda: Mass Media and Public Opinion. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: Polity.

McCombs M., Reynolds A. 2009. How The News Shapes Our Civic Agenda. – Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research (3rd ed.). Ed. by J. Bryant, M. B. Oliver. New York, NY: Routledge.

McCombs M.E., Shaw D.L., Weaver D.H. 1997. Communication and Democracy: Exploring the Intellectual Frontiers in Agenda-Setting Theory. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Pleines H. 2016. Oligarchs and politics in Ukraine. – Demokratizatsiya. Vol. 24. No. 1. P. 105-127.

Puglisi R., Snyder Jr.J.M. 2015. The Balanced US Press. – Journal of the European Economic Association. Vol. 13. No. 2. P. 240-264.

Qin B., Strömberg D., Wu Y. 2018. Media bias in China. – American Economic Review. Vol. 108. No. 9. P. 2442-2476.

Reuben R.C. 2009. The Impact of News Coverage on Conflict: Toward Greater Understanding. – Marquette Law Review. Vol. 93. No. 1. P. 45-83.

Schenk C. 2012. Nationalism in the Russian Media: Content Analysis of Newspaper Coverage Surrounding Conflict in Stavropol, 24 May-7 June 2007. – Nationalities Papers. Vol. 40. No. 5. P. 783-805. https://doi. org/10.1080/00905992.2012.705271

Schiffer A.J. 2018. Evaluating Media Bias. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Stevenson R.L., Eisinger R.A., Feinberg B.M., Kotok A.B. 1973. Untwisting the News Twisters: A Replication of Efron’s Study. – Journalism Quarterly. Vol. 50. No. 2. P. 211-219.

Toepfl F. 2011. Managing Public Outrage: Power, Scandal, and New Media in Contemporary Russia. – New Media & Society. Vol. 13. No. 8. P. 1301-1319.

Toepfl F. 2014. Four Facets of Critical News Literacy in a Non-Democratic Regime: How Young Russians Navigate their News. – European Journal of Communication. Vol. 29. No. 1. P. 68-82. https://doi. org/10.1177/0267323113511183

Van Aelst P., Maddens B., Noppe J., Fiers S. 2008. Politicians in the News: Media or Party Logic? Media Attention and Electoral Success in the Belgian Election Campaign of 2003. – European Journal of Communication. Vol. 23. No. 2. P. 193-210.

Van Herpen M.H. 2015. Putin’s Propaganda Machine: Soft Power and Russian Foreign Policy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Yekelchyk S. 2015. The Conflict in Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press.

Zandberg E., Neiger M. 2005. Between the Nation and the Profession: Journalists as Members of Contradicting Communities. – Media, Culture & Society. Vol. 27. No. 1. P. 131-141.


Kazakov A.A. 2015. The Theory of Agenda Setting vs. Framing: To the Question of the Approaches. – Politeia. No. 1. P. 103-114. (In Russ.)

Kazun A.D. 2017. “Rally Around the Flag” Effect. How and Why Support of the Authorities Grows During International Conflicts and Tragedies? – Polis. Political Studies. No. 1. P. 136-146. (In Russ.)

Kazun A.D. 2018. Global News Flow (What Countries Russian Media Talk About and Why?). – Politeia. No. 4. P. 90-105. (In Russ.)

Puyu A.S., Bodrunova S.S., Litvinenko A.A., Kurysheva Yu.V. 2013. Mediakratiya: sovremennye teorii i praktiki [Mediacracy: Modern Theories and Practice]. St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg State University Press. (In Russ.)

Starostenko K.V. 2019. Russian-Kazakh Relations: State and Prospects. – Abyss. No. 1. P. 89-95. (In Russ.) 

Content No. 6, 2021

See also:

Kobzeva S.V.,
Media Monitoring of Crises and Conflicts.. – Polis. Political Studies. 2008. No1

Timofeyeva L.N., Ryabchenko N.A., Malysheva O.P., Gnedash A.A.,
The digital socio-political agenda and its conceptualization within the new media ecology framework. – Polis. Political Studies. 2022. No2

Shevchenko A.Yu.,
Discourse-Analysis of Political Media-Texts. – Polis. Political Studies. 2002. No6

Kostenko N.,
The Media at the Elections: Value Guide-Lines of the Ukrainian Political Press. – Polis. Political Studies. 1999. No6

Tuzikov A.R.,
Mass-Media: Visible and Invisible Ideology. – Polis. Political Studies. 2002. No5



   2024      2023      2022      2021   
   2020      2019      2018      2017      2016   
   2015      2014      2013      2012      2011   
   2010      2009      2008      2007      2006   
   2005      2004      2003      2002      2001   
   2000      1999      1998      1997      1996   
   1995      1994      1993      1992      1991