Political agenda-building under the conditions of a hybrid media system – a comparison across countries and issues (2014-2017)

Project Management

Prof. Dr. Silke Adam (Uni Bern); Prof. Dr. Barbara Pfetsch (FU Berlin)
in cooperation with: Prof. Dr. Lance Bennett (University of Washington, USA), Dr. Harald Katzmair (FAS Research, Austria / USA); Prof. Dr. Gerhard Heyer (InfAI, Leipzig)

Project Finance

This project is part of the research groupe „Politische Kommunikation in der Online-Welt“, which is financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The Swiss part of the project is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Project description

Political agenda-building under the conditions of a hybrid media system – a comparison across countries and issues (2014-2017)
The overall aim of the project is to investigate to what extent and under which conditions challenger-initiated online issue networks affect media and political agenda-building. We suppose that political challengers who lack easy access to the mass media and politics, first seek to expand their issues and frames to a wider public via traditional mass media and then aim at entrance onto political agendas (Cobb, Ross, & Ross, 1976). The changing nature of political communication, described as hybrid media system (Chadwick, 2011) is making such spill-overs more likely. We expect the likelihood of spill-overs from challengers to the mass media / politics to depend on the properties of challengers’ networks, on the mass media, on the receptiveness of political actors as well as on issue and country specifics.

To test our hypotheses we conduct a longitudinal (30 months) analysis of challenger-initiated online issue networks, issue-specific mass media coverage and attention and problem definitions of politics in four countries (Germany, Switzerland, UK and US) and two issue fields (climate change and food safety). To identify challenger-initiated online issue networks we rely on hyperlink analysis based on crawling and scraping techniques. Beyond, we study issue-specific reporting by analysing a broad national media sample and political attention by looking at Facebook pages of parties and relevant politicians as well as parliamentary debates. Hyperlinks are then subject to social network analysis whereas the content of challengers’ websites, mass media coverage and politics are content analysed. We plan to use time series regressions to study spill-overs in the agenda-building process.

The proposed study is instructive from the point of view of normative theory, from the perspective of theories on agenda-building, and in a methodological regard: normatively, we are concerned with access conditions for those who are traditionally weak, the challengers; theoretically we study processes of agenda-building under the conditions of a hybrid media system and methodologically we combine hyperlink network analysi with manual and automated content analysis.