Mission statement

Focus

The Political Communication Research Unit investigates language, symbols, and communication of people who make and who interpret policies.

On the one hand, according to a narrow view of political communication, it looks at the use of language, symbols, and communication in politics, or the organization of society. On the other hand, it also holds a broad conception of political communication, according to which language, symbols, and communication are associated with political ideology, and their political function is examined in the context of e.g. popular culture and sports, or elite culture and architecture.  

Perspectives

Tradition of mass communication , public opinion and collective behavior, propaganda. New: political psychology. Politics is people’s work; therefore, the attention in the research process goes to people and their emotions rather than to structures and authorities. 
Interdisciplinary. The research domain possesses a natural affinity with political, social and communication sciences. However, the angle is interdisciplinary and according to the concrete research theme insights are also used from other humanities sciences such as (cognitive) Linguistics, (clinical, social, ...) Psychology, (marketing, macro, financial, etc.) Economics, (political) History, European or International Relations Studies.
International comparative. The data collection is mainly based on the Belgian, Dutch or European context, but also other continents get attention. There is usually worked with international data sets (e.g. ICCS data). Scientific generalization is the goal.
Case study-oriented. In a general sense, resource domains for possible themes are leadership, nationalism, populism, economic or political crisis and political or military conflict, but also sports and popular or elite culture.
Historical and international. The research works especially with current and European case studies but considerable importance is attached to the historical and international context.

Methods

Methods-pluralism. Content and discourse analysis, survey and experiments, methods from psychology. Mostly according to the behavioral paradigm. Predominantly empirical-quantitative. To a lesser extent qualitative and according to the constructivist or the structural paradigm. Empiricism and theory-development go hand in hand, through the use of case studies.

Scientific embedding

The Political Communication Research Unit makes at present original contributions to five firmly established and interrelated scientific research domains:

  • Political rhetoric. What style and language are the most appropriate to influence? Is style more important than the content? What does discourse teaches us about politics and ideology, and about social developments? (message)
  • Political psychology. What is the role of personality in success and failure of electoral campaigns, political consultation and ideological goals? How important is political charisma and what (psychological and other) factors play a role? (source)  
  • Political socialization and citizenship education. How children get their values and political opinions? What causes stereotyping? What is the role of political discussion at home, and media consuming behavior? Can schools contribute to the political education towards democracy and tolerance? (public) 
  • New media. How political elites and citizens use the new media technology? Can new media contribute to more political participation? How one measures the quality of political websites? (medium)
  • Political marketing. How important are political advisers in a campaign? What does political consulting consists of and what are the newest developments around the world? What is politics impression management and how one can adjust the political image (effects)?

Networking

Established international domains such as "political communication", "political psychology" and "political socialization": International Society of Political Psychology ISPP, European Consortium for Political ResearchECPR, International Political Science Association IPSA, ...

Smaller networks on “language and politics”, “political education”, and “political marketing”: Groupe de contact FNRS Langue (s) et Politique (s); CADAAD Critical Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines; IPSA Research Committee on Political Socialization and Education; IPMA International Political Marketing Association.

Finally…

The Political Communication Research Unit studies, summarized, psychological, linguistic, (new) media, socialization and marketing aspects of political communication. 

Political communication is symbolic and strategic communication in collective mental and group processes. Links in this process of public opinion formation are: the role of political elites (source); their language, symbols, and communication (message); the traditional and new media that are used (channel); the construction of political meaning (audience); and the strategies that are used in this process (effects). It makes sense to study the above components as much as possible in relation to each other and to the process as a whole.