Research team

Media, Movements and Politics (M2P)

Expertise

Expertise on Journalism, Public Opinion, Vox Pops, Opinion Polls and News Content Diversity

Award of the Research Board 2021 - Award Deleeck: Social Sciences and Humanities 01/12/2021 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Research prize awarded by the Research Council of the University of Antwerp. The prize will be used to strengthen my line of research on the representation of public opinion in news coverage and its effects on citizens

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Does diverse news lead to a diverse audience? The influence of news content diversity on people's opinions, issue perceptions, and news item evaluation. 01/04/2021 - 31/03/2022

Abstract

A core democratic function of news media is informing the public on day-to-day affairs. To help establish a well-informed citizenry, ideally, journalists should represent the diversity of voices that are present in society. News content diversity has already received much attention in academic research and journalism practice, but we know little about the audiences on the receiving end. For content diversity to play its democratic role, citizens must be reached and affected by it. We do not know whether people actually notice diverse news content and how they evaluate it. Moreover, there are some indications that presenting audiences with diverse actors and opinions in the news might not always result in more diverse opinions among those audiences, as people tend to focus on the opinions close to their own and neglect other information. This leads to the main question of this project, addressing a major gap in the literature: does actor and/or viewpoint diversity in a news item influence audience perceptions of that news item and their views on the news issue itself? To study this, an experiment is conducted in which different levels of viewpoint and actor diversity are presented for two politically relevant topics. The stimuli are ten constructed television news items apparently from the Flemish public service broadcaster, in which the number of viewpoints and actors are manipulated. The treatment news items will be highly realistic thanks to the use of the real layout and journalists from the broadcaster. The dependent variables are perceived news item diversity, perceived opinion climate, personal opinion and news item evaluation. This research project will provide a novel understanding of when and how news content diversity influences audience perceptions and judgments. On top of addressing several gaps in the literature, it will help journalists to inform citizens better and contribute to a more diverse public debate.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The Voice of the People. Displays of Public Opinion in the News and Their Influence on Audiences. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

One of the main functions of news media in democracies is representing public opinion. There are several ways in which journalists can do so: by covering (1) polls (2) vox pops (3) inferences about public opinion (4) protest or (5) social media references. Many studies focus on one of these public opinion displays. However, surprisingly, no research exists studying how these different displays are combined in the news. Gaining an understanding of how public opinion is presented in the news is important, as people look at the media to learn about the opinions of others. The core questions of this project are consequently: How is public opinion represented in news content and how does this influence citizens? To answer these questions I combine a content analysis comprising news from three countries (the US, UK & Belgium) with a series of experiments. The content analysis will focus on how frequent the different displays are and how they are combined in the news. Moreover, how journalists frame public opinion is also examined: do they present the public as a homogenous mass? This is important, as homogeneity is expected to play a role in the influence process of public opinion displays. In the second phase of the project, a series of cumulative experiments will be conducted to gain an understanding of how and when public opinion displays influence audiences' perceived public opinion and personal opinion and of the role of homogeneity in the process.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Vox Pops or Polls? Effects of Vox Pops and Opinion Polls on Perceived Public Opinion, Personal Opinion and News Item Evaluation. 01/04/2018 - 31/03/2019

Abstract

How news media frame and portray public opinion contributes to what audiences perceive to be the majority opinion. Journalists have several means at their disposal to present public opinion in the news. Opinions polls and vox pops—interviews with the ordinary man or woman on the street—are possibly the most common and recognized representations of the public in the news. Surprisingly, little is known about how these public opinion displays relate to each other in the influence they have on audiences. Although the effect of vox pops is well-established, we do not know whether vox pop statements are able to 'overrule' other more valid public opinion data such as opinion polls, especially in television news. This is why the main objective of this study is to analyze how opinion polls and vox pops affect audiences' perceived public opinion and personal opinion. Moreover, this project will also study whether these effects persist over time and how they influence news item evaluation. To do so, this project uses a large-scale, web-based experiment. The stimuli are sixteen constructed television news items apparently from the Flemish public service broadcaster. The treatment news items will contain the real news anchor and journalists, making the items very realistic. The dependent variables are perceived public opinion, personal opinion and news item evaluation. In sum, this experiment will provide a unique understanding of when and why vox pops and opinions polls influence audience perceptions and judgments. Not only will this project address several gaps in the research field, but it will also help journalists to inform audiences about public opinion in a more insightful way.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)