Author Andreas Jungherr

New Publication: “Characterizing Political Talk on Twitter”

Oliver Posegga and I have a new paper out in the the Proceedings of the 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS). In Characterizing Political Talk on Twitter: A Comparison Between Public Agenda, Media Agendas, and the Twitter Agenda with Regard to Topics and Dynamics we compare lists of prominent topics in newspapers, television, survey responses, and on Twitter during an election campaign. These comparisons speak to the different mediating processes of political reality on different media. Our findings indicate that it is futile to expect social media services to mirror political reality or the coverage of politics in legacy media truly. Instead, it appears more fruitful to use differences in the reflection of political reality across different sources to develop a better understanding of common or divergent mediating processes between sources.

Abstract: Social media platforms, especially Twitter, have become a ubiquitous element in political campaigns. Although politicians, journalists, and the public increasingly take to the service, we know little about the determinants and dynamics of political talk on Twitter. We examine Twitter’s issue agenda based on popular hashtags used in messages referring to politics. We compare this Twitter agenda with the public agenda measured by a representative survey and the agendas of newspapers and television news programs captured by content analysis. We show that the Twitter agenda had little, if any, relationship with the public agenda. Political talk on Twitter was somewhat stronger connected with mass media coverage, albeit following channel-specific patterns most likely determined by the attention, interests, and motivations of Twitter users.

Our findings indicate that:

“political talk on Twitter is distinct from public opinion on the most pressing political topics and political media coverage. Although political talk on Twitter shares topics with political media coverage, we find a communication environment characterized by the attention, interests, and motivations of politically vocal Twitter users. These mediating factors led political talk on Twitter to deviate in strength and dynamics from political coverage in mass media. On Twitter, therefore, we find a political communication environment interconnected with more traditional spaces of political communication but also following its own channel-specific dynamics.”

Source: Oliver Posegga and Andreas Jungherr (2019). Characterizing Political Talk on Twitter: A Comparison Between Public Agenda, Media Agendas, and the Twitter Agenda with Regard to Topics and Dynamics. In HICSS 52: Proceedings of the 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. University of Hawaii at Manoa: Scholarspace. p. 2590-2599. DOI: https://hdl.handle.net/10125/59697.

Syllabus: Digital Media in Politics

Later this week starts my course on the role of Digital Media in Politics at the Department of Political Science at the University of Zurich. The course aims to give an overview of various debates on different uses and effects digital media have had in politics:

The course examines the impact of digital media on politics in international comparison. Digital media play an increasingly important role in politics. Be it political communication, the coverage of politics in the news, campaigning, public discourse, or collective action, various political fields are changing due to digital media. This makes it paramount to identify, assess, and understand the role of digital media in politics. Over the course, students will be introduced to important approaches in conceptualizing and measuring the effects of digital media on politics. In this, we will focus on the role of digital media in helping political actors fulfill specific tasks in their work, such as gaining representation in the political information space, reaching people, convincing and mobilizing people, coordination, organizing, and measuring and evaluating the impact of their actions.

In the course we will talk about:

  • Media systems,
  • Publics and counterpublics,
  • Polarization,
  • Election campaigns,
  • Political participation and collective action,
  • Data-driven campaigning,
  • Modes of control,
  • Disinformation and manipulation, and
  • Platforms as political actors.

[Syllabus]

Course Material: Summer Semester 2018

Spring is sadly taking its time but the summer semester starts rolling into sight. This summer, I will be teaching two courses at the University of Konstanz. The first is an introductory course to political psychology. The second is a methods course on how to use digital trace data in the social sciences illustrated by working with Twitter data. If you are interested in taking the courses have a look at the course material:

New Publication in Review of International Political Economy: Context-driven attitude formation

A few years back, Matthias Mader, Alexander Wuttke, Harald Schoen and I started on a project with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Arbeitgeberverband Gesamtmetall trying to explain public support and opposition toward the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). While history has moved on since then, the project proved interesting. In our first publication based on this project Context-driven attitude formation: the difference between supporting free trade in the abstract and supporting specific trade agreements [Open Access] in the Review of International Political Economy, we show that Germans were thinking of TTIP as something distinct from free trade.

Determinants of attitudes toward free trade and TTIP. Reported are OLS coefficients and 95% confi- dence intervals from the regression models reported in Table 4, columns 5 and 6.

We find little correlation between supporting free trade in the abstract and supporting a specific trade agreement, TTIP. Factors usually identified in political economy as driving public support for trade agreements (i.e. economic self-interest or predispositions supporting openness of societies) do tell us little about public support or opposition toward TTIP. Instead, we show that in order to explain attitudes toward TTIP, you have to account for factors dominant in public discourse at the time (e.g. attitudes toward the partner country USA, the role of interest groups in politics, and market regulation).

To us, the lesson is that in order to understand public support or opposition toward specific trade agreements, we have to move away from models using a fixed set of explanatory variables toward models that are more flexible and reactive to public discourse. Models traditionally used to understand preferences for or against international integration in the abstract might thus tell us little about support or opposition toward specific instances of these measures once they are politicized and subjects of public discourse. If we ignore this, we run the risk of misunderstanding public reactions toward specific instances of international integration. Measures taken by decision makers based on these misunderstandings might then lead to unintended outcomes.

Abstract: Many studies use the same factors to explain attitudes toward specific trade agreements and attitudes toward the principle of free trade and thus treat both objects as interchangeable. Contemporary trade agreements, however, often reach beyond trade in the narrow sense. Consequently, factors unrelated to free trade may affect citizens’ evaluations of these agreements. We propose a model of attitude formation toward specific trade agreements that includes the societal context as a constitutive feature. We expect salient aspects of an agreement to activate corresponding predispositions. Empirically, we compare how this contextual model and a standard model perform in explaining German citizens’ attitudes toward free trade and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The results show that the standard model performs well in explaining public opinion on the principle of free trade but is less useful in explaining attitudes toward TTIP. The latter were driven by postures toward transatlantic cooperation, predispositions toward the role of interest groups in politics, and market regulation – aspects salient in German public discourse about TTIP. In sum, we find ample evidence for the need to differentiate between the two attitude objects and for our contextual model of attitude formation.

Andreas Jungherr, Matthias Mader, Harald Schoen, and Alexander Wuttke. 2018. Context-driven attitude formation: The difference between supporting free trade in the abstract and supporting specific trade agreements. Review of International Political Economy. (Online First) doi:10.1080/09692290.2018.1431956 [Replication Data]