Proposal deadline: Wednesday 10 February 2021.
Political communication, exploring the dynamic nature of the relationship between citizens, political actors, and the media, has developed into a prominent subfield within political science. It involves the creation, dissemination, and processing of information among political actors, media agents, and citizens, as well as the effects of such communication on a wide range of outcomes. In recent months, contemporary societies have been put under extreme stress by increasing division and polarization. Several crises have worsened or newly emerged, underscoring the relevance of reliable, accurate information and effective, convincing political communication (e.g., the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, constitutional crises). These challenges take place in an era where the media landscape is in full transformation with newly emerging political and media actors, new communication forms (digital media), and related phenomena (e.g., micro-targeting, filter bubbles, disinformation) that affect the interplay between politics, media, and the citizenry. These developments make a better understanding of the dynamics of political communication more essential than ever.
Building on prior successful political communication sections at ECPR, this section seeks to bring together relevant scholarship in the field of political communication research in its broadest sense. This section invites contributions that explore key issues in the field regarding the causes and consequences of media and mediated communication for political processes, actors, and citizens in all its facets. Research pertaining to current challenges to political communication in times of crisis (e.g., misinformation, filter bubbles, micro-targeting, populist communication, incivility, and negativity in campaigns) is especially welcome. More generally, contributions assessing the role of election campaigns in Europe and the US, mediatization, framing, agenda-setting, effects of political communication on attitudes, personalization, communication strategies, and political journalism are strongly encouraged too.
In short, we warmly invite panels and papers on current issues in political communication, welcoming a variety of theories and empirical approaches. Submissions using innovative methods in the field (e.g., big data analysis) are highly encouraged. Hence, we aim to convene a section advancing our understanding of political communication’s role in times of crisis, addressing a wide range of key issues.
In line with this section’s high submission and low acceptance rate (48%) in 2020, we propose 8 panels:
Political communication in Election Campaigns and its Effects
Politics has traditionally been mediated with news media being a crucial link between politicians and voters. While traditional media are still the main source of information about politics for most voters (e.g., television debates), more political actors have adopted communication tools (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) to engage with their electorate directly. This is, for instance, exemplified by the 2020 US Elections. This panel welcomes papers examining new challenges and trends in election campaigning and campaign effects in distinct electoral contexts, including implications for electoral behavior.
Negativity and Emotions in Political Communication
Politics is about emotions. Voters may vote for a party because they are anxious, angry, or enthusiastic about an issue. Political actors also make use of emotional appeals, which could influence voters. Increasing use of emotions and specific rhetoric (e.g., negativity, incivility) can contribute to rising polarization in society. This panel invites papers assessing the role of emotionality, incivility, and negativity in political communication and its consequences for voters and political institutions
Media Effects and Public Opinion: Framing, Branding & Agenda-setting
Media effects theories deal with how framing and branding (of parties, individual politicians, or issues) can affect public opinion and the opportunities of political or media actors to set the public agenda. This panel welcomes empirical studies of distinct types of media effects on public opinion, with particular attention to the contingency of those effects.
Populist Communication and Polarization
Research has increasingly conceptualized populism as a communication strategy, making it an integral part of scholarship on political communication. Certain political leaders adopt rhetoric in which both elites (vertical antagonism) and minority groups in society (horizontal antagonism) are targeted which could intensify polarization and hostility. This panel studies patterns and effects of populist communication by political actors, the media, and citizens
Misinformation, Fact-Checking, and Political Communication
Brexit, Trump’s election, and the 2020 US elections clarify the threats posed by misinformation. The COVID-19 infodemic has even added to this ‘post-truth’ challenge, highlighting more than ever the vital importance of accurate information. Conspiracy theories are flourishing, undermining experts’, and politicians’ credibility. This makes questions on how to reduce the spread of misinformation, how to counteract conspiracy beliefs, and what explains citizens’ susceptibility highly relevant. This panel invites studies examining causes and consequences of misinformation and its potential remedies
Challenges of Digital Political Communication: Filter bubbles, Echo-chambers, and Selective Exposure
Technological innovations and the rise of new communication tools (e.g., social media) have strengthened opportunities for citizens to compose their own ‘media diet’ à la carte, possibly decreasing diversity and pluralism of political viewpoints. Media algorithms even add to that, making that citizens may end up in filter bubbles or echo chambers, where they only encounter information confirming their pre-existing beliefs. Hence, personalization in political communication risks to strengthen polarization. This panel invites papers on personalized communication and its implications for public debates and the quality of democrac
Challenges in Political Journalism
Recent phenomena such as media fragmentation, rise of user-generated content, new forms of communication, and new media actors, erode political journalists’ traditional role as gatekeepers between politics and the public. The global pandemic, in turn, has put legacy news back into the spotlight. This panel seeks to advance our knowledge of how past developments impact audience expectations as well as political journalists’ own work and role conception in diverse media contexts
Social Media & Political Communication: Trends & Implications
Social media platforms have the potential to greatly change dynamics in how people consume political information (= demand side) and how political leaders reach their electorate (= supply side). Social media transforms the interactions between politics and voters with new trends, such as personalized ads and micro-targeting which could alter campaigning dynamics. This panel invites papers assessing dynamics in both supply and demand side linked to the rise of social media and its implications.
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