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Political Communication & Journalism

Political Communication & Journalism

Amsterdam School of Communication Research / ASCoR

The programme group Political Communication & Journalism addresses the information function of communication. The research studies how, and under which conditions, news and other communication with informational purposes is produced.

The programme investigates the contents of this information, how audiences use and process it, and what effects it has. A central question is how citizens, organizations, and institutions use media and communication to become informed about public affairs and to participate in them. It is a starting point that citizens have become ‘critical consumers' also in the realm of politics and this affects their information seeking behavior as well as the use and effects of new information. Research in this program often has an internationally comparative orientation. Our theories address the core of democracy so a major task of the program is to develop and test theories that help improve democratic processes.

Two research lines

Special attention is paid to the contents of political news and its effects on knowledge, attitudes, political participation, and electoral behavior. The program is organized in two research lines: 1) Contents and effects of political communication, and 2) changes in journalism.

  • Contents and Effects of Political Communication

    The first research line focuses on the contributions of media and communication to citizens' perception, knowledge, and understanding of political issues and political and social groups, as well as citizens' participation in the political arena and their electoral behavior. Researchers investigate the role of (changes in) different information channels and contents for public-opinion formation and expressions of citizenship. An integral part of understanding the consequences of communication is to systematically assess - often in large scale content analyses - how the media cover political issues in terms of e.g., the visibility of issues, actors, the tone of news, and news framing. Issues of particular importance include the coverage of contested topics such as immigration, religion, extremist and populist parties and politicians, and European integration.

    In terms of effects, our efforts are focused on knowledge, attitudes, political trust and cynicism, and civic behavior (such as political participation and vote choice). We pay attention to effects of entertainment features in political communication in particular. The effects of political communication on political actors are also an important topic of the program. Also, the dynamics of change are in the foreground of our interest as well as differential effects as a consequence of individual, media content, and contextual factors.

  • Changes in Journalism

    The second research line focuses on developments in journalism. It looks at changes in the legal and financial context of journalism, at new forms of interactive and participatory journalism, and at online modes of political communication providing alternatives to institutionalized journalism such as citizen journalism, blogs, and the use of social network media by political actors. The research considers how journalism and other (public) communication systems evolve over time, and we look at sensation and entertainment as elements in journalism and public information provision. Our research also addresses normative implications of the changing role of journalism, in particular the journalistic approach to and coverage of politics.

Programme Group Director

dhr. prof. dr. C.H. (Claes) de Vreese

Programme Group Director

Political Communication Website

Visit the Political Communication website

PhD Projects

  • Actors and Frames in Climate Change Communication

    Climate change is a widely debated topic among institutionalised political actors, the media, and by civil society more broadly speaking. In this project, the focus lies on the role of conflict in political communication about climate change, and the effects of conflict on the public debate and civic engagement with the issue.

    As a first step, the project will shed light on who says what when about climate change. Combining content and discourse analysis-inspired methods with social network analysis, a first study will draw “maps” of mediated political communication about the issue in two or more countries. These maps will then be used to analyse whether there are strong differences between actors and actor-groups, both in relation to the content they cover, and the conflict they present.

    The second focus lies on social networks and patterns of engagement with climate change-related content by citizens. Combining research about selective exposure to digital content and the insights gained from the discourse/network analysis, the aim is to investigate which types of conflict-content combinations lead to higher or lower forms of engagement by different social groups.

    Finally, using and online experiment, the project draws attention to the psychological explanations of why certain types of messages are associated with higher or lower levels of engagement. Overall, the project draws on a variety of methods, ranging from  computational social-science driven text analysis, over social network analysis, to experiments with the ultimate aim  to develop a deeper understanding of why some countries and segments of the public act more decisively on the issue of climate change than others. 

    Robin is affiliated with both the Corporate & Political Communication group.

    dhr. R.S. (Robin) Tschötschel MSc

    PhD Student

    dhr. prof. dr. C.H. (Claes) de Vreese

    Supervisor

    dhr. dr. A.R.T. (Andreas) Schuck

    Supervisor

    mw. dr. A. (Anke) Wonneberger

    Supervisor

  • Defending or Damaging Democracy: Legal Action against Anti-immigrant Politicians and the Electoral and Societal Consequences.

    The aim of this project is to understand the impact of legal prosecution of Anti-Immigrant Parties (or one of their members). In particular, the project focuses on the electoral and societal consequences of these actions. Special attention will be paid to the role of the media in shaping citizens’ reactions to these actions.

    The project mainly relies on experimental designs. This PhD project is conducted within the framework of the larger NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) Vidi project ‘Defending or Damaging Democracy: Legal Action against Anti-immigrant Parties in Europe and its Effects on their Electoral Support’ supervised by Dr. Joost van Spanje.

    N.B. Both the title and the description are provisional and will be adjusted in October.

    mw. L.G. (Lisanne) Wichgers MSc

    PhD Student

    dhr. dr. mr. J.H.P. (Joost) van Spanje

    Supervisor

    mw. dr. L.C.N. (Laura) Jacobs

    Supervisor

  • Extent and Consequences of Political Behavioral Targeting

    There is growing evidence that campaigning is changing. One important change is the degree of tailored and target political messages. Little empirical evidence is available about the extent of such campaign practices in a European multiparty context (with different electoral systems and different funding and privacy regulations). Furthermore, there is hardly any knowledge about the perception and effects of political behavioral targeting on citizens. This research project fills this void using interviews, survey data, and experimentation. 

    dhr. T. (Tom) Dobber MSc

    PhD Student

    dhr. prof. dr. C.H. (Claes) de Vreese

    Supervisor

    mw. prof. dr. N. (Natali) Helberger

    Supervisor

    dhr. dr. D.C. (Damian) Trilling

    Supervisor

  • Framing effects in the migrant crisis Case study on Macedonia

    The project consists of three experimental studies analyzing how different media frames on the migrants affect citizens' attitudes on the issue of migration, and subsequently on a range of dependent variables. The first study looks at changes in media trust upon exposure, the second surveys the public support for a more presidentialized leadership and the third assesses potential shifts in the feeling and understanding of European identification. The arena for the study is the Republic of Macedonia, a country that found itself on the Balkan route of the migrant flow in 2015, where political and cultural context renders suitability for research.

    PhD Student: Ivo Bosilkov MSc

    dhr. prof. dr. C.H. (Claes) de Vreese

    Supervisor

    mw. dr. K. (Katjana) Gattermann

    Supervisor

    dhr. dr. R. (Rachid) Azrout

    Supervisor

  • Impact of personalised marketing communication tactics

    In the digital media landscape characterized by overload of information it becomes challenging for brands to reach consumers. Therefore, delivering the right content to the right person at the right moment with personalised marketing communication (PMC) tactics becomes increasingly valuable. Technology, big data, and social media deliver marketers insights into the personal interests of individuals. However, for consumers PMC tactics may make communication more relevant, but also more intrusive. This PhD project examines this tension by answering the questions what makes PMC tactics a persuasive strategy and under which circumstances they may have a boomerang effect on consumers.

    mw. J. (Joanna) Strycharz MSc

    PhD Student

    mw. prof. dr. E.G. (Edith) Smit

    Supervisor

    mw. prof. dr. N. (Natali) Helberger

    Supervisor

    mw. prof. dr. G. (Guda) van Noort

    Supervisor

  • Media effects on political trust

    The project studies how media information on national politics, immigration, and the economy can influence  trust in national political institutions and the European Union. These relations are studied over time and in different country contexts, using a combination of content analysis, survey data, and experiments.

    mw. A. (Anna) Brosius MSc

    PhD Student

    dhr. prof. dr. C.H. (Claes) de Vreese

    Supervisor

    mw. dr. E.J. (Erika) van Elsas

    Supervisor

  • News for you! News consumption in a world of news sites, algorithms, and social media.

    Who is exposed to what kind of news? Citizens, especially younger adults, are increasingly and predominantly using online and social media to get informed about the world around them. They are often directed to news via their social networks (e.g., Facebook) and via algorithmic news recommender systems.

    By analysing citizens in an online media ecosystem, this project tackles the question how content features, consumer features and context features interact in shaping news exposure and, ultimately, political interest and political participation. By doing so, we aim to better understand news use, the existence of echo chambers and filter bubbles, and their effect in the evolving media landscape.

    mw. S.A.M. (Susan) Vermeer MSc

    PhD Student

    dhr. prof. dr. C.H. (Claes) de Vreese

    Supervisor

    mw. dr. S. (Sanne) Kruikemeier

    Supervisor

    dhr. dr. D.C. (Damian) Trilling

    Supervisor

  • The Democratic Blind Spot: How authoritarian legacies structure contemporary ideological competition.

    The process of democratization has always been a two-edged sword. On the one hand, democracy freed citizens to pursue their own demands. On the other hand, alongside the process of democratization also came the freedom to express hostility toward certain societal groups or toward the democratic system at large. In the last few decades, the unprecedented successes of radical political parties in, e.g., Hungary and Poland but also in stable democracies like the Netherlands and Germany have contributed substantially to this contention over democratic government. Some scholars go even as far as to saythat these developments are indicative of a ‘democratic backsliding’, or the process through which the rules of democracy are increasingly being contested and replaced by authoritarian alternatives.

    Although radical parties are increasingly gaining electoral visibility, evidence of a democratic backsliding among citizens is less clear-cut. That is, over time declines in popular support for democracy are not systematic and even less so are the trends across different countries. Instead, popular support for democracy has remained high and largely stable in most countries. But if citizens themselves are not necessarily opposed to democratic government, how come they elect parties with illiberal or sometimes even antidemocratic views into parliament?  In this dissertation, I develop an argument that radical parties’ ability to afford some level of authoritarianism is a combination of (1) an opportunity structure that allows to package issue-positions of citizens with higher levels of tolerance toward authoritarianism (2) citizens’ willingness to accept some level of authoritarianism, providing they are substantively represented by these parties and (3) parties’ ability to disassociate themselves from the authoritarian past. Each chapter in my dissertation touches upon these topics.

    mw. S.E. (Sjifra) de Leeuw MSc

    PhD Student

    dhr. dr. mr. J.H.P. (Joost) van Spanje

    Supervisor

    dhr. dr. R. (Rachid) Azrout

    Supervisor

  • The role of media coverage in the economic crisis

    Alyt Damstra studies the role of economic news coverage during the financial crisis in the Netherlands. The PhD position is part of  the larger project ‘Media Coverage as a Catalyst for Economic Crises? Causes, Content and Consequences of Economic News Coverage’. The focus is on key actors trying to influence the news, the content of the news itself and the consequences of the coverage, for example the effects it  might or might not have on political party support. The project relies on a variety of advanced methods including content and time-series analyses

    mw. A. (Alyt) Damstra MSc

    PhD Student

    dhr. prof. dr. R. (Rens) Vliegenthart

    Supervisor

    dhr. dr. K. (Knut) De Swert

    Supervisor

    dhr. dr. M. (Mark) Boukes

    Supervisor