Peter Van Aelst

“Inter-media agenda-setting: Whom follows whom in the social media age?”

Intermedia agenda setting is a widely used theory to explain how content transfers between news media. The recent digitalization wave, however, challenges some of its basic presuppositions. Can media agendas still be measured on an issue level or should we analyze only news stories? Do fixed time lags suffice to understand overlap in media content? Are (new) media still homogeneous entities or rather a collection of different actors? I will address these questions by discussing a recent Belgian election study, but also links this to other recent studies on intermedia agenda-setting around the globe.

  • Harder, R. A., Sevenans, J., & Van Aelst, P. (2017). Intermedia Agenda Setting in the Social Media Age: How Traditional Players Dominate the News Agenda in Election Times. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 22(3), 275-293. doi:10.1177/1940161217704969
  • Valenzuela, S., Puente, S., & Flores, P. M. (2017). Comparing Disaster News on Twitter and Television: an Intermedia Agenda Setting Perspective. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 61(4), 615-637. doi:10.1080/08838151.2017.1344673
  • Chris, J. V., & Lei, G. (2016). Networks, Big Data, and Intermedia Agenda Setting: An Analysis of Traditional, Partisan, and Emerging Online U.S. News. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 94(4), 1031-1055. doi:10.1177/1077699016679976

Cristian Vaccari

“Social Media and Political Participation in Comparative Perspective”

Social media are redefining the ways in which citizens engage with political information and, overall, these changes have positive implications for political participation in Western democracies. By allowing users to encounter clearly identifiable political viewpoints, facilitating accidental exposure to political news, and enabling political actors and ordinary citizens to reach voters with electoral messages designed to mobilize them, social media make a positive contribution to users’ repertoires of political participation. Moreover, political interactions occurring on digital platforms do not only benefit citizens who are already involved, but boost participation across the board. This is because social media offer both additional participatory incentives to the already engaged and new political opportunities for the less engaged. These patterns are also shaped by systemic characteristics and institutions, which the talk will explore based on unique cross-country empirical data.

  • Valeriani, C. Vaccari (2017). ‘Political Talk on Mobile Instant Messaging Services: A Comparative Analysis of Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom’. Information, Communication & Society, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2017.1350730
  • Vaccari (2017). ‘Online Mobilization in Comparative Perspective: Digital Appeals and Political Engagement in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom’. Political Communication, 34(1), pp. 69-88, DOI: 10.1080/10584609.2016.1201558
  • Vaccari, A. Valeriani (2016). ‘Party Campaigners or Citizen Campaigners? How Social Media Deepen and Broaden Party-Related Engagement’. International Journal of Press/Politics, 21(3), pp. 294-312, DOI: 10.1177/1940161216642152
  • Valeriani, C. Vaccari (2016). ‘Accidental Exposure to Politics on Social Media as Participation Equalizer: Inadvertent Encounters with Political Information, Interest in Politics and Online Participation in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom’. New Media & Society, 18(9), pp. 1857-1874, DOI: 10.1177/1461444815616223
  • Vaccari, A. Chadwick, B. O’Loughlin (2015). ‘Dual Screening the Political: Media Events, Social Media, and Citizen Engagement’. Journal of Communication, 65(6), pp. 1041-1061, DOI: 10.1111/jcom.12187

Frank Esser

“Understanding the relationship between political leaders and social media for communicating populist messages”

In this session, we will take an in depth look at a broad range of political actors from 6 countries and explore how they use Facebook, Twitter and other channels. We will address three main questions. First, we ask what kind of parties (mainstream, extreme or new challengers) are most inclined to use populist political communication. Second, we ask whether social media is indeed better suited for spreading populist communication than TV talkshows (identified in the previous literature as the most favorable arena). Finally we ask whether populist communication on social media receives more popularity responses (likes, shares, retweets, fav’s, etc) than non-populist messages. We will conclude this session with a discussion on the strategic calculations of why populist politicians find it necessary to circumvent the traditional news media.

  • Ernst., N., Blassnig, S., Buechel, F., Engesser, S., & Esser, F. (2018). Where Populists Prefer to Spread their Messages. An Analysis of Social Media and Talk Shows in Six Countries. Paper presented to the Political Communication Division of the International Communication Association at the ICA conference in Prague, 24-28 May (currently under review for journal publication).
  • Blassnig, S., Ernst, N., Engesser, S., & Esser, F. (2019). The Effect of Populist Communication on Social Media Popularity Indicators: How Political Leaders Use Populist Key Messages on Facebook and Twitter. Chapter draft prepared for inclusion in volume edited by Richard Davis & David Taras on Political Leadership and Social Media (currently under review for publication).
  • Wettstein, M., Esser, F., Schulz, A., Wirz, D., & Wirth, W. (2018). News Media as Gatekeepers, Critics and Initiators of Populist Communication: How Journalists in Ten Countries Deal with the Populist Challenge. Paper presented to the Political Communication Division of the International Communication Association at the ICA conference in Prague, 24-28 May (currently under review for journal publication).

Luigi Curini

“An overview of text as data methods”

This class will provide an overview of some of the new methods developed within the social science literature in the last years to analyze texts and to extract from them useful information via classification and scaling algorithms. We will discuss the principles of text analysis, how to prepare a text for analysis, while also offering some guidelines on how to effectively use text methods for social scientific research.

  • Grimmer, Justin, and Stewart, Brandon M. (2013). “Text as Data: The Promise and Pitfalls of Automatic Content Analysis Methods for Political Texts”. Political Analysis, 21(3): 267-297
  • Curini Luigi, Andrea Ceron, and Stefano M. Iacus (2017). Politics and Big Data: Nowcasting and Forecasting Elections with Social Media. London: Routledge, 2017, Chapter 2

Andrea Ceron

“Topics, sentiment and scaling models in political science (and beyond)”

Pablo Barbera'

“Using Social Media Data to Study Political Behavior”

Citizens across the globe spend an increasing proportion of their daily lives on social media websites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Their activities leave behind granular, time-stamped footprints of human behavior and personal interactions that represent a new and exciting source of data to study standing questions about political and social behavior. At the same time, the volume and heterogeneity of social media data present unprecedented methodological challenges. This session will offer an overview of recent scholarly work that relies on social media data to study different facets of social and political behavior: polarization, misinformation, collective action, censorship, etc. We will also discuss the opportunities and challenges in this line of work, as well as the existing methodological tools that allow researchers to analyze large-scale volumes of social media data.

***This lecture will be complemented with a hands-on session in the afternoon where students will learn how to collect data from Twitter and apply it to the study of political communication.

  • Tucker, J. A., Theocharis, Y., Roberts, M. E., & Barberá, P. (2017). From Liberation to Turmoil: Social Media And Democracy. Journal of Democracy, 28(4), 46-59.
  • Ruths, D., & Pfeffer, J. (2014). Social media for large studies of behavior. Science, 346(6213), 1063-1064.

(The readings in PdF will be available in the Reserved Area)

Kate Kenski

“Gender and Public Opinion: An Examination of Don’t Know Responses in Political Knowledge and Opinion Expression”

Research on gender and public opinion has shown that women are less inclined to express themselves with the same degree of certainty that men do. In this presentation, the ways in which “don’t know” responses shape our understanding of what people know and believe is examined and disaggregated by gender. The gender gap in political knowledge has been consistently found in the scholarly literature, and the tendency to give “don’t know” responses has been offered as a partial explanation. This tendency to give “don’t know” responses has implications for other public opinion measures as well.

(The readings in PdF will be available in the Reserved Area)

Lilach Nir

“Public Opinion and the Communication of Inclusiveness”

Mass mediated coverage of politics in the Western world is often a scapegoat for dwindling electoral participation and general disaffection with mainstream politics.  More often than not, critics say, news content inspires distrust, disinterest, and sways public opinion away from participation in public life. The current lecture challenges this conventional wisdom by explicating theoretically and testing empirically some features that make news coverage engaging and communicate inclusiveness. These features inspire both interest in public affairs and support for electoral candidates. In the talk, I will present and discuss several interrelated projects, spanning public broadcasting and gender gaps in political knowledge; parallelism and citizen decision-making; and the allure of certain candidate traits in online presence of those vying for public office.

  • Jerit, J., Barabas, J., & Bolsen, T. (2006). Citizens, knowledge, and the information environment. American Journal of Political Science, 50(2), 266-282.
  • Iyengar, S., Curran, J., Lund, A. B., Salovaara‐Moring, I., Hahn, K. S., & Coen, S. (2010). Cross‐National versus individual‐level differences in political information: a media systems perspective. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 20(3), 291-309.

Cristiano Vezzoni

“Collecting survey data during election campaigns: The Rolling Cross Section experience”

Collecting data to study the effects of election campaigns is a challenging task. On the side of survey research, the Rolling Cross Section (RCS) design has been developed to detect campaign dynamics and to allow the connection of survey data with other sources of data more typically employed in the field of political communication (e.g. media/social media data) . A RCS survey is thus a survey carried-out on a (usually large) cross-section sample that is further divided in a number of sub-samples that are fielded in different consecutive days of the electoral campaign. The rolling cross-section design has proven to be superior to other alternatives (e.g. pre-post panel) to detect the longitudinal variability of the public opinion during an electoral campaign. 

In Italy, an RCS survey has been carried out in both 2013 and 2018 election campaigns.

The presentation firstly summarizes the main characteristics of this research design, outlining its virtues and limitations. Secondly, it provides a brief account of the main results of the Italian RCS studies, for both 2013 and 2018 elections.

On the design:

  • Brady, H.E. & Johnston, R. (2006). “The Rolling Cross-Section and Causal Attribution.” In Brady H.E. and and Johnston R., Ed.  , Capturing Campaign Effects. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 164-195.
  • Johnston R. & Brady H.E.  (2006). “The rolling cross-section design.” Electoral Studies, 21, 283–295

Examples of research based on RCS data:

  • Barisione, M., Catellani, P. & Garzia, D. (2014). “Between Facebook and TV News. Media Exposure and Leader Perception in the 2013 Election Campaign in Italy.” Comunicazione Politica, 6, 187-210.
  • Vezzoni, C. & Mancosu, M. (2016) “Diffusion processes and discussion networks: an analysis of the propensity to vote for the 5 Star Movement in the 2013 Italian election.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, Volume 26 – Issue 1: 1-21.

Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck

“Effects of Election Campaigns: The Role of Citizens’ Interpersonal Communication”

Election campaigns can be understood as a totality of information flows originating from three different sources: parties and candidates as interested actors, engaged in biased public communications aimed to promote their electoral success; news media as more or less neutral arbiters, informants, but also commentators; and ordinary citizens that discuss with one another about politics in private, semi-public and public settings. Utilizing unique data from a recently completed election survey the lecture will concentrate on citizens’ interpersonal communication, building on conceptual and normative inspiration from the theory of deliberative democracy. It will discuss how political talk relates to the other types of campaign communication, how it develops during campaigns, who engages in which ways in political talk and how it becomes relevant for electoral behavior.

  • Chambers, Simone. 2012. Deliberation and Mass Democracy. In: John Parkinson and Jane Mansbridge (eds.), Deliberative Systems. Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 52-71.
  • Cho, Jaeho. 2015. Political Discussion. In: Berger, Charles R. et al. (eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Communication, Hoboken: Wiley (doi: 10.1002/9781118540190.wbeic179).
  • Gilkerson, Nathan D., and Brian G. Southwell. 2015. Interpersonal Communication and Political Campaigns. In: Berger, Charles R. et al. (eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Communication, Hoboken: Wiley (doi: 10.1002/9781118540190.wbeic244).
  • Gilkerson, Nathan D., and Brian G. Southwell. 2015. Interpersonal Communication. In: Gianpietro Mazzoleni et al. (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Political Communication, Hoboken: Wiley (doi: 10.1002/9781118541555.wbiepc197).
  • Schmitt-Beck, Rüdiger. 2008. Interpersonal Communication In: Christina Holtz-Bacha and Lynda Lee Kaid (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Political Communication, Los Angeles: Sage, 341-350.
  • Schmitt-Beck, Rüdiger, and Oana Lup. 2013. Seeking the Soul of Democracy: A Review of Recent Research into Citizens’ Political Talk Culture. Swiss Political Science Review 19(4), 513–538.
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