ECPR General Conference
University of Wrocław, Wrocław
4 - 7 September 2019

Political Communication

Political Parties
Social Media
Public Opinion
Section Number
Section Chair
Loes Aaldering
University of Vienna
Section Co-Chair
Alyt Damstra
University of Amsterdam

Communication is an integral aspect of politics. Hence, the importance of communication research for political science cannot be overstated. Political communication deals with, among other things, the way (political) information is communicated to the electorate, how media cover parties and politicians, the way issues in the media affect politics, how political actors communicate with each other, and interpersonal communication on political topics. In recent decades, important societal changes have taken place that strongly affect the field of political communication, including the rise of internet-based communication, the increase of populist rhetoric by political parties, the fragmentation of the media landscape and the rise of ‘post-truth’ politics in which fake news flourishes.

This section seeks to bring together scholars in the field of political communication research. We aim to reach out to scholars of political communication in the broadest sense possible, including research on (internal and external) party communication, the influence of media coverage on political behavior or attitudes, election campaigns, social media and politics, and political journalism. In short, we warmly invite panels and papers on the broad topic of political communication, and we welcome studies employing experimental designs, survey studies, content analyses or other relevant methods. Research that explicitly aims to strengthen our understanding of the causality involved in communication effects are encouraged, as well as studies that employ cutting-edge research methods to study political communication in an automated fashion.

As the topic of the section is very broad, the Standing Group on Political Communication is quite popular (while only founded in October 2017, it currently has 192 members), and many papers were submitted to the section on Political Communication of the 2018 General Conference (with a specific focus on fake news). As such, we expect that a large group of scholars will be interested in submitting their research within this section again this year. Therefore, we request the section on Political Communication to be allowed to fill at least eight panels in the 2019 General Conference.

Possible Panels within the section Political Communication:

Campaign effects in contemporary elections - panel proposal submitted by Andreas Goldberg and Katjana Gattermann (both from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
This panel invites papers that deal with new developments in election campaigning, such as micro-targeting and social media canvassing, or with classic accounts of campaigning effects, such as paid and unpaid media effects or face-to-face interactions, from a novel perspective. We welcome papers that focus on one of these campaign channels or that contrast different means of campaigning, or which compare findings across electoral contexts. Electoral contexts may include local or regional elections, as well as national and/or European elections as well as referendum campaigns.

Understanding the rise of populism: attention-based political and communication strategies on social media – panel proposal submitted by Michał Jacuński (University of Wroclaw, Poland) and Norbert Merkovity (University of Szeged, Hungary)
Attention-based politics refers to the situation where the nature of the struggle for the attention of the public rapidly changes. In this communicative situation, politicians not only compete for attention with other politicians or parties, but also with non-political actors. Research shows that the attentive communicative tools and structural determinants used for spreading populist ideas are just as central as the populist ideas themselves. This panel welcomes papers that define and explain maximizing attention strategies implied by individual leaders or parties in order to overcome the resistance or disinterest of traditional media.

Emotions in Political Communication
Political communication not only looks into the minds, but also into the hearts of journalists, politicians, and citizens. Yet, scholars only recently began to recognize the role of emotion as an integral part of political communication processes. This panel invites papers that offer novel insights into the integration and conceptualization of emotions into political communication theories and research.

Personalized Political Communication
Scholars increasingly doubt whether the idea of universal political communication effects is still viable. On the one hand, algorithms personalize the political news offered to citizens. On the other hand, the selective exposure literature argues that citizens self-select their information diets. This panel welcomes papers investigating developments in personalized political communication, and the way this phenomenon shapes media effects.

Political Communication in a Post-Truth Era
The “Fake News”-phenomenon raises concerns within political communication research: are information and factuality less valuable in times where citizens’ opinions seem based on ideology, preference, and emotion? Does this create dysfunctional relationships between media, politics and citizens? This panel invites papers studying political communication in a post-truth context, e.g. submissions focusing on shifting patterns of political and media trust, or studying the consequences of fake news and misinformation.

Political Agenda Setting by the Media
News media attention is consequential for the issues that are addressed in the political arena, but various factors – on the side of both media and politics - shape media’s political agenda setting power. This panel brings together scholars investigating how demand and supply factors of political news affect the political agenda setting power of the mass media.

Populist Political Communication
The academic debate on populism has been flourishing following recent political developments in Europe and the United States. Populism is increasingly studied as a communication style, which brings the study of populism to the center of political communication research. This panel welcomes papers that investigate patterns and effects of populist communication by political actors and media.

Political Journalism in a Digital Era
Media fragmentation and internet-based communications have eroded the privileged position of journalists as news providers and they challenge journalists’ status as gatekeepers between politics and the public. Consequently, this panel seeks to understand how these trends affect the work of political journalists and their interactions with political elites and the public.

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"Aristocracies … may preserve themselves longest, but only democracies, which refresh their ruling class, can expand" - Hugh Trevor-Roper

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