Below you can find the list of past research projects in which M²P was involved. Alternatively, you can visit the list of current projects.

How political news affects and is affected by citizens in the social media age. Theoretical challenges and empirical opportunities 

Abstract:

In a democracy, citizens need information about politics. Only when people have knowledge about the actors, the issues and the rules of the political game, they can hold informed opinions and act meaningfully as citizens. The mass media are traditionally considered as key actors in providing this informational backbone of democracy. Ample studies on agenda-setting and framing, for example, have shown time and again that the news media have a profound influence on what people know, and how they think about politics. The question is to what extent it is possible to maintain many of these classic insights from mainstream political communication in the digital era. The increasing importance of the Internet and social media as a means of communication and information has most likely changed how people learn about what is going on in the world in general and about politics more specifically. At the same time, the emergence of these new media have enabled citizens not only to inform themselves differently, but also – by liking, commenting and sharing news stories within their networks – to become more actively involved in the distribution of news content.  Using the triangle of media, politics and citizens as analytical framework, this project focuses on how people, in the social media age, consume and engage with political news and how they are affected by it, but also on how journalists and politicians are, in turn, influenced by people’s engagement with the news. The (new) reciprocal relationships afforded by digital media challenge some of the established theoretical insights in political communication, but simultaneously these developments also offer ample new opportunities to reassess political news and its effects on citizens, politicians and journalists and to develop new theories of political news production, consumption, and effects.

 

Researchers:

 

Resources:

BOF GOA

Politicians' perceptions of public opinion (POLPOP)

Abstract:

Adequate representation by political elites entails a more or less accurate perception of what the public cares about and wants its representatives to do. The goal of this study is (1) to examine to what extent elected politicians have correct perceptions regarding the preferences of the population they represent (both the population at large and their party’s electorate) and (2) to explain why some politicians hold more accurate perceptions than others. The study consists of a survey with elites and a symmetrical population survey, in ten different countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Scotland, Germany, Canada, Norway, Israel, Switzerland) that are sufficiently different to test comparative hypotheses.

Researchers:

Stefaan Walgrave (Principal Investigator)

Pauline Ketelaars (Post-doctoral researcher)

Julie Sevenans (Post-doctoral researcher)

Karolin Soontjens (PhD student)

Arno Jansen (PhD student)


Period: January 2017 - January 2020

Funding:  Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Media as the missing link?

Abstract:

Against the backdrop of mediatization and increasing electoral volatility, the project asks whether the media influence party support. In a set of closely integrated and pioneering studies the project looks at how the issues, frames and actors that appear in the news affect the support of political parties. All studies are comparative (Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands & UK) allowing the researchers to draw conclusions on mediatized politics in Western Europe in general, as well as on how political and media systems shape media influence on party competition.

 

Researchers:

 

It's a Matter of Timing. The Practice and Effectiveness of Strategic Communication Timing by Politicians in Belgium

Abstract :

Political decisions are more and more made with the press in mind. Politicians’ communication efforts are increasingly professionalized and ever more resources go to news management. Accordingly, there is growing scholarly attention for the mediatization of politics and the adaptation of politicians to the media logic. Yet, this stream of literature has remained largely theoretical. Few studies investigate the activities by which politicians try to shape media coverage. Furthermore, studies examining politicians’ media work are almost exclusively about ‘what’ the content of the messages is and ‘how’ these are sent. ‘When’ the messages are communicated is mostly neglected. The timing of a message, however, is a crucial factor to explain whether political messages are covered in the news. What is picked up by journalists is highly dependent on media dynamics at a certain moment. Moreover, timing strategies are gaining relevance because of the 24-hour news cycle and the advent of news websites and social media. This project constructs a theory on strategic timing and empirically analyzes whether timing is an effective tool for politicians to gain or avoid media coverage. Via a classic gatekeeping study, observation of press officers and experimental surveys with Belgian politicians, this project investigates how political actors strategically plan their communications (the practice of timing) and to what extent thisinfluences what becomes news (the effectiveness of timing).

 Researchers:Pauline Ketelaars (Post-doctoral researcher): Stefaan Walgrave (Promotor) 

Period:October 2016 – September 2019 

Funding:Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

The political agenda-setting effect of protest

Abstract:

We investigate the impact of protest on the political agenda. Do protest events addressing a certain issue lead to subsequent increase in attention for that issue on the political agenda? Adopting an agenda-setting approach that takes political attention as the dependent variable solves many theoretical and methodological problems of previous work dealing with social movements'' impact and yields a straightforward and standardized time-series design. The research deals with five countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and the UK) that are sufficiently different to test a host of comparative hypotheses.

Researcher(s):

Period

January 2011 - December 2014

Funding:

  • Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Information-processing by individual political actors. The determinants of exposure, attention and action in a comparative perspective (INFOPOL) 

Abstract:

A well-functioning democracy implies that political actors are aware of the real problems in society, their potential solutions, and the associated preferences of citizens. This requires information about the real world. This project examines how individual political actors process information coming out of society. Its goal is to lay bare the patterns whereby exposure to certain types of information regarding problems lead to specific forms of attention to that information triggering particular kinds of action by political actors.

Researcher(s):

Period

October 2012 - September 2017

Funding:

  • European Research Council (ERC)
  • Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds (BOF)

Diversity and Information Media: New Tools for a Multifaceted Public Debate 

Abstract:

Information media diversity is essential for the working of contemporary democracies. Often dealt with separately in previous research, we examine the diversity of issues, actors, and viewpoints in journalistic practice. This interdisciplinary project (law, communication, computer linguistics) is a collaboration of scholars from different universities. The aim of the project is to provide concrete tools that journalists, civil organizations and policy makers can use to monitor and measure diversity of news content. 

The Antwerp team will focus on the diversity of news content in Flanders in comparative and longitudinal perspective

More info see: https://soc.kuleuven.be/fsw/diamond

 

Researchers:

The pursuasive power of protest

Abstract:

When is protest persuasive? Or, more precisely, how do protest actions succeed in eliciting supportive reactions of citizens and political elites? Protest has become a mainstream instrument in Western democracies for citizens to signal problems and communicate preferences. Evidence on how protest proves influential is scarce, however.

This project seeks to contribute to the recent surge in attention to protest impact in four particular ways. First, it places the role of mass media in protest politics center stage. It formulates and substantiates a theory on protest impact with media attention as crucial mediating variable. It is through media coverage that protest is perceived and it is to media cues that observers of protest react. Second, it lays bare the mechanisms that drive protest power. It tests how internal characteristics of protest –displays of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment– influence the salience people attach to the protest issue, the position they take on that issue and the action they are willing to take.

Third, it compares two protest publics -elites and citizens- and as such explores two pathways of protest impact. Finally, this project also innovates methodologically. It introduces experiments in the field of protest impact research. Experiments guarantee researcher control, can ascertain causality and hence are ideally suited to test and tease out the mechanisms that drive the mediated persuasive power of protest.

Researcher(s):

Period:

October 2014 - September 2017

Funding:

Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Participation and representation. A comparative study of linkage mechanisms between citizens and the political system in contemporary democracies (PARTIREP) 

Abstract:

Changing patterns of participation and representation was already the theme on which the PARTIREP network has focused in the course of the past five years (2007-2011). The network has set up a variety of projects on patterns of political participation, political trust, political protest, political parties, political deliberation and political representation. In this application we will investigate these ideas by focusing on three broad research themes or work packages:  substantive representation, personalization and democratic innovation.

Researcher(s):

Period:

April 2012 - March 2017

Funding:

  • Belgian Federal Science Policy (Belspo)

Contextual variation in crisis-induced changes in public opinion and nuclear policies: the case of the Fukushima accident 

Abstract:

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand SCK. UA provides SCK research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s):

Period:

October 2013 - September 2017

Funding:

  • FED. INST.

Understanding personalized voting. Media and campaign effects in local and national elections.  

Abstract:

In recent discussions about the changing features of politics in advanced industrial democracies personalization is considered one of the key developments. The central idea is that individual politicians have taken a more central position in politics at the expense of political parties. Voters may increasingly make their electoral choices based on individual attributes of candidates, politicians may act more as individual actors and less as party members, and the media may represent politics more as a confrontation of individuals.

However, it remains unclear how individual voting behaviour is influenced by the personalization of media coverage and campaigning. Particularly, one may wonder to what extent these two communication channels stimulate voters to think of individual characteristics that are purely individually based (e.g. gender) or rather party based (e.g. ballot position). Furthermore, the effectiveness of these channels may depend on the institutional context (local vs. national).

Because Belgium appears to be a critical case for such an analysis, we construct a comprehensive model based on the local elections of 2012 in Antwerp and the regional/national elections in 2014. To our knowledge, no one has evaluated the interaction effects of media attention, personal (campaign) communication, and institutional context-in one integrated multilevel model of personalized voting behaviour. Our results will be relevant for all countries with electoral systems that provide voters with ordered party lists and multiple preference votes. Moreover, the insights of our multi-level design could integrate the findings of largely distinctive research traditions.

Researcher(s):

Period

January 2013 - December 2016

Funding:

  • Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Learning, adapting and primed voters. Effects of the Antwerp 2012 local campaign on voters.

Abstract:

Do voters learn something during the final sprint towards Election Day? This topic is central to public opinion research because political knowledge is crucial for the functioning of democracy (Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1996). The elections for the Antwerp city council of 2012 are a good case to study such campaign effects. It is a local campaign, which means the issues are closer to the citizens and there is a larger chance of learning effects. Also, the expected battle between two politicians with national popularity (Patrick Janssens and Bart De Wever) will generate substantial media attention. This increases the odds that citizens actually notice the campaign and are influenced by it.

This project studies change in Antwerp voters'' political knowledge during the campaign through panel surveying. It investigates the voters'' opinion on a number of issues, but is especially interested in voters'' knowledge of the parties'' positions on these issues and changes therein (learning). Additionally, it tracks how voters respond once they do learn something: do they switch party, or adapt their own position to ''fit'' their currently preferred party (adapt)? Finally, the project studies whether these issues become more important determinants of vote choice (priming).

Researcher(s):

Period:

January 2012 - December 2012

Funding:

  • Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds (BOF)

Political parties' role in political agenda-setting. A longitudinal study in Belgium.

Abstract:

The study tackles political parties'' role in the political agenda-setting process in Belgium. Integrating the American and the European approaches to agenda-setting the study adopts a longitudinal and multi-actor perspective to assess parties'' net impact on a multitude of political agenda''s. Party preferences are not taken for granted but are embedded in the broader political context; they are endogenous factors to be explained.

Researcher(s):

Period:

January 2008 - December 2012

Funding:

  • Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds (BOF)

Rethinking the federal paradox. Sub state nationalist discourse of political parties in electoral manifestoes and television debates of four federal countries (1968-2010).

Abstract:

The literature on federalism has been dealing with an unresolved paradox for many years. On the one hand, by granting autonomy to sub state collectivities, federalism is said to temper demands of sub-state nationalist parties. On the other hand, by institutionalizing sub state identities, federalism is said to provide tools that reinforce autonomist or separatist demands. Important to resolve this paradox is that federal systems can differ strongly amongst each other and that they can interact with other characteristics of a concerned country (electoral system, party system, media system, ...).

This project wants to look into this paradox in an innovative way: by analysing sub state nationalist discourse of political parties and elites over the last four decades in four federal countries: Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and the UK. It wants to do this through frame analysis of party electoral manifestoes and televised election debates for all national elections. Attention will be paid to evolutions in official positions as well as to explicit and implicit elements of (sub-)national identity construction. This way we want to contribute to resolving the federal paradox, by getting a detailed view on the dynamics of sub state nationalism in four federal countries.

Researcher(s):

Period:

October 2010 - November 2012

Funding:

  • Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Development of customer satisfaction methodology of recreation domains in the province of Antwerp.

Abstract:

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Province of Antwerp. UA provides Province of Antwerp research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s):

Period:

April 2009 - October 2012

Funding:

  • Provincie Antwerpen / stad Antwerpen

Why are female politicians not making it into the news? And why do they get different coverage if they do? A comparative eight-country study.

Abstract:

Research shows that female politicians receive less media coverage than their male colleagues. And, when female politicians do get in the news, they get different media coverage with more attention to their family situation, less attention for the issues they raise, and a greater emphasis on their age, sex and appearance. The goal of this project is to account for the under- and misrepresentation of female politicians: how come? Why are female politicians not making it into the news and why do they get different coverage if they do?

Researcher(s):

Period

October 2011 - September 2012

Funding:

  • Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds (BOF)

Caught in the act of protest: Contextualizing contestation (CCC)

Abstract:

The central research question of this Belgian research proposal is the role and importance of protest issues or themes in determining who will participate in protest, why they do so, and how they get to do so.

Researcher(s):

Period:

January 2009 - December 2011

Funding:

  • Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

The Politics of Attention: West European politics in times of change.

Abstract:

Main aims of this project are:
- To develop a new theorietical perspective on the "issue supply of politics" in West Europe. how can similarities and differences between countries be understood?
- To develop a more comprehensive understanding of agenda-setting dynamics. What is the role of different actors such as mass media and political parties? What are the effects of the different institutional structures found across Europe?
- To strengthen the comparative element in policy agendas research. How does American based policy agenda theory work in a European context?
- To establish a unique data source for studying politics in West Europe. Experience from the American Policy Agendas Project show that the datasets established through this research project can be of value to many other scholars.

Researcher(s):

Period:

January 2008 - December 2011

Funding:

  • Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Coverage of the international community: facts, impact and action space.

Abstract:

This research project examines foreign news on Belgian (Flemish) TV-stations focusing on three questions. (1) What is the state of affairs of foreign news on Belgian TV. Is it declining or not? Does it has high qualitative standards or not? (2) What is the imact of foreign news on the attitudes and behavior of the news consumers? (3) To what extent and how can the Flemish government develop a policy to stimulate covering foreign news on the Flemish TV-stations?

Researcher(s):

Period:

January 2009 - December 2009

Funding:

  • VL. MIN.

Media in election times: Explaining the content of election coverage in an international comparative perspective.

Abstract:

The aim of this project is to map and explain the similarities and differences in election coverage in four different countries. As independent variables we will draw on the structural characteristics of the political and media system in the selected countries. Yet, based on original survey data, the informal interaction culture between politicians and journalists will also be used as explaining variables.

Researcher(s):

Period:

October 2007 - September 2009

Funding:

  • Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Risk communication in nuclear emergency management.

Abstract:

The main objective of this Ph.D. research is to develop a conceptual and theoretical analysis of risk communication for nuclear emergency management. The work to be performed within the proposed Ph.D. program has the aim of designing a nuclear emergency risk communication model for the performance, development and evaluation of risk communication before, in between and after a nuclear crisis. Risk communication for nuclear emergency management will be approached by a) in-depth study of the factors influencing the response to communications and subsequent behaviors; (b) identify relevant target populations according to these factors and (c) development and testing of communication in different phases of the communication cycle, for selected subgroups. The main instrument used for this study will be a large scale public opinion survey of the Belgian population. Moreover to assess the degree of acceptance and retention of the communications we will additionally integrate an experimental design in the survey research, as well as a number of focus groups.

Researcher(s):

Period:

August 2008 - July 2007

Funding:

  • FED. INST.

Satisfaction study "Focus on Deurne".

Abstract:

In this research project we focus on the life and political satisfaction of the 70.000 inhabitants of the district of Deurne. In order to do so, we apply a mixture of both quantitative and qualitative techniques. On the one hand we use multilevel models to determine the influential explanatory factors behind satisfaction. In this models we use individual survey data as well as administrative statistics related to the relevant statistical sectors. We will draw a random sample of 700 respondents, proportionally fitted with regard to the statistical sectors. On the other hand we will bring some of those respondents together to discuss some ''critical incidents'' that came up in the survey. This way we hope to get a better insight in the processes that lead to dissatisfaction.

Researcher(s):

Peter Thijssen (principal researcher)
Nathalie Vallet (co-principal researcher)

Period:

September 2009 - October 2011

Funding:

/

Political mobilisation and the new communication technology. A multilevel study of digital divide. / Changing Patterns of Participation and Representation in Contemporary Democracies. A Comparative Research on the Relation between Citizens and State.

Abstract:

Thus far most scholars investigating the political impact of internet have been focusing exclusively on data on individual users, demonstrating a digital divide with regard to gender, age and education level. Yet, political participation always involves three levels. First, there is the individual level of the citizen who participates or not (micro). Second, one has to incorporate the organizational level of organizations and social movements recruiting and mobilizing people into participation (meso). Third, there is the level of the political system that is addressed by the political participation acts (macro). We will address all three levels simultaneously in this study, thus arriving at a more comprehensive understanding of the political impact of internet, than has been done in earlier studies. Our general research question, hence, can be specified into three subquestions:

  1. does ICT reinforce or diminish existing individual-level participation inequalities? (micro);
  2. does ICT lower the threshold for collective political actors wanting to mobilize the population (meso)?;
  3. does ICT augment the impact of political mobilization on political decision-making (macro)?

Researcher(s):

Period:

December 2005 - May 2009

January 2007 - December 2011

Funding:

/

Determinants of preferential vote-shares in (sub-)local elections. The city council and district council elections in Antwerp of October 2006.

Abstract:

In this project we look for the factors determining (the share of) preferential votes of individual candidates. We focus on the city council and district council elections in Antwerp that will be organized in 2006. Unlike other research that is based only on administrative data, we use survey data for the candidates, as well as for the members of the slating committees. This data will be compared with similar data of the first district council elections of 2000. This way we will be able to assess the efficacy of decentralization initiatives.

Researcher(s):

Peter Thijssen (principal researcher)

Period:

01/03/2006 -31/12/2007

March 2006 - December 2007

Funding:

/

Protest surveying. Possibilities and limitations of an innovative research design.

Abstract:

Modern Western societies are permeated by political protest. Different scientific disciplines study protest but their approach is partial and one-sided, and often they do not seem to address the central questions: who protests, for what issues and why, and how do people come to protest? Especially the theoretical and methodological void between the different ''levels'' of protest research is problematic. Protest only comes about when a societal and political context (macro) generates a ''demand'' for protest (micro) that is linked with a protest ''offer'' by mobilizing actors (meso). This micro-macro-bridge still is a weak point in most protest research. The basic intuition of this project is that questioning specific protest event participants drawing on so-called protest surveys can tear down the walls between the different scientific traditions and, by focussing on the link between demand and supply, can make a significant contribution to our knowledge of protest, its drivers and mechanisms. The research group applying for this FWO research is one of the most active in this new research field. The aim of this project is to develop the protest survey method and its research design further. If surveying protesters is a useful and realistic option that can deepen our knowledge about protest, how can we develop, extend, and codify protest surveying?

Researcher(s):

Period:

January 2006 - December 2009

Funding:

  • Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Political agenda-setting and the media: who leads, who follows?

Abstract:

The aim of this study is to assess whether, to what extent en how the mass media determine the political agenda. Due to their diverging research designs, previous studies resulted in contradictory outcomes. This project combines the methods of previous studies, quantitative (time series) and qualitative approaches (interviews), to overcome the limitations of the available studies. The research comprises time series analyses of media and political agendas, selection of ten cases for further analysis, a media framing analysis of media coverage of these cases and a series of interviews with privileged witnesses.

Researcher(s):

Period:

May 2005 - April 2009

Funding:

/

Political communication strategies of the extreme right (Vlaams Blok) in Flanders : a comparative and longitudinal perspective.

Abstract:

This research focuses on the external political communication of the Flemish extreme-right party, the Vlaams Blok. We hypothesise that the political discourse of the Vlaams Blok is much more populist then the discourse of the other Flemish parties. We''ll enquire this in a comparative (six major Flemish parties) and in a longitudinal (from 1987 onwards) way. The second hypothesis is that the political communication of the Vlaams Blok changed a lot. Only at the elections of 1995, 1999 en 2000 the Vlaams Blok really played the populist card and the Blok became a real protest party. We''ll scrutinise both hypotheses empirically.

Researcher(s):

Period:

October 2003 - September 2005

Funding:

/

Toward an Electronic Newsarchive in Flanders. Building a digital archive of current and retrospective news broadcasts of Flemish radio and television stations.

Abstract:

Clearly, news broadcasts on radio and television have become the most important source of information on current affairs in Western societies. Nevertheless, researchers do not have access to a well-established data base of these broadcasts. While newspapers are available in libraries, news broadcasts usually aren''t accessible in this way, and this complicates research on media contents and effects. With this project, the possibility for creating an electronic media archive is being investigated. Radio and television news broadcasts will be archived electronically, and will be made public to the scientific community.

Researcher(s):

Period:

Januari 2003 - December 2005

Funding:

/

On the role of the media during the Belgian election campaign of 2003.

Abstract:

This project deals with the importance of the media in modern election campaigns. The media are not only the most important information channel by which politicians and parties can reach the voter, but also a key and independent actor in the campaign. We will analyze this double role by means of a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the Flemish media during the elections of 2003 (newspapers + television). The project focuses on the Belgian elections, but the analysis will be conducted in an international comparative perspective (e.g. cooperation with Dutch research group).

Researcher(s):

Period:

October 2002 - December 2004

Funding:

/

'Who Elected WTO?' Political Legitimacy of International Organisations (EU and WTO).

Abstract:

This project deals with the importance of the media in modern election campaigns. The media are not only the most important information channel by which politicians and parties can reach the voter, but also a key and independent actor in the campaign. We will analyze this double role by means of a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the Flemish media during the elections of 2003 (newspapers + television). The project focuses on the Belgian elections, but the analysis will be conducted in an international comparative perspective (e.g. cooperation with Dutch research group).

Researcher(s):

Period:

March 2002 - December 2004

Funding:

  • POD wetenschapsbeleid

In Search of 'New emotional movements'. An international and comparative research on a potentially new type of social movements.

Abstract:

In this research we focus on the sociological uniqueness of the Belgian white movement. A lot of these characteristics don''t fit in the traditional social movement theory: media alliance, heterogeneous supporters, almost no organisation, the central position of victims'' Focussing on these characteristics we try to find out whether a number of well chosen other social movements in other countries share these features and whether we could speak of a new kind of social movements.

Researcher(s):

Period:

Januari 2002 - December 2005

Funding:

  • Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)

Agenda setting in Belgium.

Abstract:

This project deals with the importance of the media in modern election campaigns. The media are not only the most important information channel by which politicians and parties can reach the voter, but also a key and independent actor in the campaign. We will analyze this double role by means of a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the Flemish media during the elections of 2003 (newspapers + television). The project focuses on the Belgian elections, but the analysis will be conducted in an international comparative perspective (e.g. cooperation with Dutch research group).

Researcher(s):

Period:

December 2000 - April 2004

Funding:

  • POD wetenschapsbeleid