Political Communication Workshops
About the workshops
The Political Communication Workshop is intended to draw together students and faculty working in political communication and political psychology at the University of Michigan. The workshop takes the form of several invited guest lectures, working on topics of broad interest in political communication.
Past events in this series
Social Media as Public Opinion in the News: Production, Attributes, and Effects
March 29, 2019: Shannon McGregor, University of Utah
Workshop will take place from 10:45 am-12:30pm in 6080 ISR-Thompson.
From news encounters to news engagement: Assessing the potential of “incidental” news exposure on social media
March 22, 2019: Anna Kümpel (LMU Munich)
Workshop will take place from 10:45 am-12:30pm in 6080 ISR-Thompson.
Although originally established as platforms for building and maintaining social relations, social network sites (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter have become a key part of online users’ news diets. On SNS, even individuals who are not motivated to seek out news are believed to be exposed to news posts due to the sharing activities of their contacts, sponsored posts by news providers, or algorithmic content curation. This type of exposure has been referred to as incidental news exposure (INE) and can be defined as encountering news or current affairs information without actively seeking it. As reflected in expressions like “accidentally informed” (Tewksbury et al., 2001) or “participation equalizer” (Valeriani and Vaccari, 2016), research on the effects of INE has largely focused on its potential for beneficial effects such as fostering the learning of political information or increasing political participation. However, despite the common conceptualization as “happy accidents”, there are good reasons to question the accidentalness of INE (Thorson, 2018).
In this talk, building on theoretical considerations and own empirical findings, I argue that INE research needs to consider the unequal chances to both be exposed to news on SNS and to actually engage (i.e., read and interact) with ‘accidentally’ encountered news content. Not only are some SNS users systematically more likely to encounter links to news articles in their feeds, but also more inclined to click on said links and read the full journalistic piece. Through discussing prevalent inequalities, I propose the existence of a “Matthew Effect” in social media news use, suggesting enrichment among users already interested in news and impoverishment among those with little or no interest in current affairs information.
The Politics of Deciding What’s News and How to Report It: Three Survey Experiments on American Journalists
October 19, 2018: Michael Wagner, University of Wisconsin
Workshop will take place from 1:30pm – 3:00pm in ISR 6080
Expression, Amplification, and Contention: Communication Mediation in a New Media Ecology
September 22, 2017: Dhavan Shah, University of Wisconsin
Workshop will take place from 11am – 12:30pm in ISR 6080
The Communication Mediation Model contends that conversation serves as a conduit for media influence on participation. Changes in communication systems, media audiences, and political campaigns call this model into question. Its current formulation fails to account for the growing convergence of news and talk via social media and the deepening institutional and social distrust accompanying heightened partisan polarization. Illustrating these changes with three studies that span conventional and computational methods, this presentation explores (1) the nature of online expression during presidential debates, (2) the factors that drive presidential campaign coverage, and (3) the influence of cloistered communication ecologies on the erosion of institutional legitimacy and social trust. An alternate model of mediated communication that emphasizes expression, amplification, and contention is proposed.
Media Exposure Measures: Still an Embarrassment for the Discipline?
October 6, 2017: Claes de Vreese, University of Amsterdam
Workshop will take place from 2pm-3:30pm in ISR 6050
News and Democracy in the Era of Trump
February 10, 2017: Regina Lawrence (Oregon)
Less than Meets the Eye? The Effects of Casualty News on Domestic Support for America’s Wars
October 14, 2016: Scott Althaus
Democratic Accountability for Some
October 2, 2015: Kevin Arcenaux
Theories of democratic accountability acknowledge that people are different. Nonetheless, these same models often presume that people respond to the political environment in the same way. Recent research establishes that stable individual-level differences in psychological motivations cause people to respond to the political environment in different ways. Professor Arceneaux discusses ongoing research with his collaborator, Ryan Vander Wielen, which investigates how individual differences in information processing influence the role of partisanship in American politics and shape the contours of democratic accountability.
Campaigning Online: Web Display Ads in the 2012 Presidential Campaign
November 20, 2015: Sunshine Hillygus
Although much of what we know about political advertising comes from the study of television advertising alone, online advertising is an increasingly prominent part of political campaigning. Research on other online political communication—especially candidate websites, blogs, and social media—tends to conclude that these communications are primarily aimed at turning existing supporters into campaign donors, activists, and volunteers. Is a similar communication strategy found in online display ads—the ads seen adjacent to website content? We examine 840 unique online display ads from the 2012 presidential campaign to explore the nature, content, and targets of online display advertising. We show that the policy content, tone, ad location, and interactive elements of the ads varied based on the audience, with persuasive appeals aimed at undecided or persuadable voters and engagement appeals aimed at existing supporters. Comparing ad content across candidates also finds that each side focused on those issues for which the candidate had a strategic advantage. As a consequence, we find little issue engagement in online advertising, in contrast to the conclusions of previous research on television advertising.
No Need to Watch: How the Effects of Partisan Media Can Spread via Inter-Personal Discussions
January 22, 2016: Jamie Druckman
Over the last quarter-century, the political news landscape has transformed. One notable change has been the rise of partisan media sources. How do partisan media sources influence public opinion? We address this question by exploring not only how partisan media directly influence individuals’ attitudes, but also how interpersonal discussions shape the impact of partisan media. We present experimental results showing that, depending on the nature of the discussion group, conversations can nullify or amplify partisan media effects. Perhaps more importantly, we also find that those who are not directly exposed to partisan media are still susceptible to its effects. This occurs via a two-stage process such that exposed individuals influence those who have not been previously exposed. We conclude with a discussion of what our results imply about the study of media effects and partisan polarization.
Do Campaigns Matter? Stability, Competition, & Counterfactuals
January 16, 2015: Lynn Vavreck, UCLA
Presidential elections are like a game of tug-of-war. Both sides are pulling very hard. If, for some reason, one side let go—meaning they stopped campaigning—then the other side would soon benefit. But of course the candidates do not let go and that makes it hard to see that their efforts are making a difference. That the polls are not moving may seem to suggest that the two campaigns are ineffective. I have argued that it means they are equally effective. The stability and competition inherent in presidential campaigns makes it hard to uncover effects from candidates’ efforts, but creative research designs that focus on providing productive counterfactuals can help researchers tell important and accessible stories about political attitudes and behavior. In this talk, I will highlight the challenges of finding campaign effects in highly competitive contests and talk about some projects that have tried to provide unique design-based solutions to these challenges.
Fear and Loathing in Party Politics
November 14, 2014: Shanto Iyengar, Stanford
Events are held at the Institute for Social Research.
This group also organizes weekly lab meetings, involving faculty and students. Labs are held on Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Institute for Social Research.