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By using a wide diversity of theoretical and methodological approaches and by encompassing both cross-national and longitudinal analyses, this volume sheds new light on comparative political communication research, such as personalization, globalization, democratization, and the changing nature of journalism,



Comparing Political Communication across Time and Space: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges in a Globalized World — An Introduction

1. Comparing Political Communication across Time and Space: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges in a Globalized World — An Introduction

As political communication in advanced democracies has reached its ‘third age’ (Blumler and Kavanagh, 1999), or is even about to enter a ‘fourth age’ (Strömbäck, 2008), the relationship between citizens and those who govern is undergoing fundamental changes. Developments such as the commer- cialization of media systems, the changing norms and practices of jour- nalism, the rise of professional communication advisors and political public relations and — last, but not least — the unpredictable nature of the Internet are fundamentally altering the way in which political matters are commu- nicated in the public sphere. For many observers, ‘media frenzies’ (Sabato, 1991) and the ‘mediatization’ of politics (Mazzoleni and Schulz, 1999) are challenging the quality of democracy and are even one of the root causes of the current ‘crisis of democracy’ (Keane, 2009; Patterson, 1993). However, new forms of communication also open up spaces for a more participa- tory, inclusive and responsive political process (Bennett and Entman, 2001; Brants and Voltmer, 2011; Cain et al., 2003).
María José Canei, Katrin Voltmer

Challenges of Comparative Political Communication Research: Design, Methods and Measurement


2. Methodological Challenges in Comparative Communication Research: Advancing Cross-National Research in Times of Globalization

Comparative communication research is conventionally perceived as the contrasting of different macro-level cases (e.g. world regions, political systems, subnational regions, social milieus, language areas, cultural thick- enings) with respect to at least one object of investigation relevant to the field of communication. The comparative approach attempts to reach conclusions beyond single cases and explains differences and similarities between objects of analysis against the backdrop of their contextual condi- tions. It is important that the objects of analysis are compared on the basis of a common theoretical framework, and also that this is done by drawing on equivalent conceptualizations and methods. It should also be pointed out that spatial (cross-territorial) comparisons ought to be supplemented wherever possible by a longitudinal (cross-temporal) dimension in order to account for the fact that systems and cultures are not frozen in time, but constantly changing under the influence of manifold transformation proc- esses (for a more thorough discussion of comparative analysis see Esser and Hanitzsch, 2012; Canel and Voltmer, in this volume).
Frank Esser

3. The Role of Measurement Invariance in Comparative Communication Research

Many theories in political communication embrace the idea that relation- ships and phenomena need to be studied across contexts, in different coun- tries, or over time. For instance, researchers have investigated phenomena across cultures, such as differences in media effects (Peter, 2004), in media content or in journalistic cultures (Esser, 2008). Other prominent research has focused on the change of phenomena, such as media effects over time (Boomgarden and de Vreese, 2006). Another important line of commu- nication scholarship explores the role of different thematic contexts, for example in election studies (Kriesi, 2011). Inherent in all these avenues of research is the belief that we need to compare across contexts in order to come to valid and meaningful conclusions about our theories on the one hand and about real-world phenomena on the other. However, despite the relevance of comparison for communication research, scholars have largely neglected to consider the methodological issues it raises. This is surprising because there are established methodological tools that allow us to test whether a comparison is valid (Davidov et al., 2011; Harkness et al., 2003; Millsap, 2011; Vandenberg and Lance, 2000). More specifically, comparisons across contexts, cultures, or over time require measurement invariance: that is, the equivalence of measures of constructs in these different contexts.
Christian Schemer, Rinaldo Kühne, Jörg Matthes

4. Using Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis in Comparative Political Communication Research: Applying Fuzzy Set Theoretic Thinking to Small-N Case-Oriented Research

There is a fine tradition of small-N comparative case-oriented research in the field of political communication and while work in this tradition has provided numerous important insights its explanatory power has often been hampered by a reliance on description and a lack of suitable alternative techniques for cross-case analysis. The aim of this chapter is to rectify this situation by introducing an alternative analytic method that draws on the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative comparative research, namely fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA). FsQCA, developed by Charles Ragin some 25 years ago (for a synoptic history see Marx et al., 2013), is a set-theoretic method ideal for small-N comparisons (four to 15 cases) which are too small for effective use of conventional statistical tech- niques and too large for descriptive cross-case comparisons (see Schneider and Wage mann, 2012). In addition, fsQCA also brings a fresh approach to thinking about causation for both quantitative- and qualitative- minded scholars. Instead of seeing causes as working independently of each other with each having an autonomous effect — a net effect so to speak -fsQCA, as will be detailed later, sees causes as conjunctural, equifinal and asymmetric.
John Downey, James Stanyer

Communicating with Citizens: Campaigns, Political PR and the Media


5. Negativity in the Public Space: Comparing a Hundred Years of Negative Campaigning on Election Posters in Sweden

Election posters are one of the oldest channels of political communication. With the advent of modern democracy, following the revolutions in the mid-19th century, posters were important. They helped parties and candi- dates to spread information about policy, ideology and, not least, they were used for attacking opponents (Gerverau, 1991; Hâkansson et al., 2014; Vigs0, 2004)
Bengt Johansson

6. US and International Coverage of the Election of Barack Obama: Trends and Differences

The election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States was historic and was acknowledged as such both domestically and internation- ally. People in the United States and around the world were glued to their television sets in anticipation of the results of the presidential election. Many Obama supporters were hoping for an end to the Bush era and for the historic election of the first African-American as president. References were made to the Kennedy era, to hope, to change and, sarcastically, to the coming of the Messiah. When Obama actually won, the media had a field day with pictures of the newly elected president, his wife, his daughters and various supporters. Energy filled the air and, of course, almost every newspaper in the US and around the world covered the elections on its front pages.
Salma Ghanem

7. Is It Enough to Be Strategic? Comparing and Defining Professional Government Communication across Disciplinary Fields and between Countries

In the contemporary context of a crisis of trust in public institutions, governments face the challenge of knowing how to communicate effectively with their citizens. This question also presents a challenge for scholars, as previous work has revealed diverse understandings of what professionalism means in government communication. Moreover, views vary according to the country focused on and the research tradition employed, which indicates the need for more systematic data-based and comparative work (Sanders and Canel, 2013).
María José Canel, Karen Sanders

8. Comparing Political Participation in Different Institutional Environments: The Mobilizing Effect of Direct Democracy on Young People

Why do young people participate in politics more in one context than in another? This fundamental question is at the core of this study. It is best addressed with a comparative design, as comparative research guides our attention to the explanatory relevance of the contextual environment for communication outcomes. Comparative research aims to understand how differences in the macro-level context shape individual communication behaviors differentially. Any attempt to systematically link macro-level system conditions and micro-level communication behaviors is an impor- tant step towards explanatory research. From a comparative perspective, it is thus important to recognize that communication processes might be shaped by factors of systemic context.
Ruth Kunz, Judith Moeller, Frank Esser, Claes de Vreese

Journalism and Media Realities: Journalistic Cultures, the Market and Political News


9. Political Trust among Journalists: Comparative Evidence from 21 Countries

Political scientists often argue that political trust is critical to democracy. Mishler and Rose (2001: 30), for instance, maintain that trust links ordinary citizens to the institutions that are supposed to represent them, ‘thereby enhancing both the legitimacy and the effectiveness of democratic govern- ment’. It comes as no surprise that this proposition has sparked a large array of research on political trust, from David Easton’s (1965) early study of polit- ical support to more recent endeavors to trace trust across various nations (e.g. the World Values Survey), and to attempts to identify the sources of trust (Campbell, 2004; Lühiste, 2006; Mishler and Rose, 2001). Empirical evidence suggests a rather pessimistic outlook for many of the established democracies, which show alarming signs of widespread public discontent with politics and cynicism about government (Norris, 1999a). Mair (2006: 6) notes that ‘[n]ever before in the history of postwar Europe have govern- ments and their political leaders...been held in such low regard.’
Thomas Hanitzsch, Rosa Berganza

10. Making Sense of Press Freedom: A Comparison of Journalists’ Perceptions of Press Freedom in Eastern Europe and East Asia

With the global spread of democracy, values such as freedom, individuality and the rule of law have gained universal appeal.1 Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are at the heart of this set of values. Indeed, the free public exchange of ideas is regarded as a defining element of democracy that underpins the rationality of popular decision-making and the balance of power between government and society. However, freedom of the press remains one of the most vulnerable achievements in the new democracies that have emerged over the past quarter of a century, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. While there is a broad body of litera- ture that analyses how state and economic power infringe on the independ- ence of the press (Freedom House, annual reports; Paletz and Jakubowicz 2003; Price et al. 2002; Willnat and Aw 2008), little is known about how the agents of press freedom, i.e. journalists, interpret press freedom and how this affects their professional practices.
Katrin Voltmer

11. A Hedge between Keeps Friendship Green — Concurrence and Conflict between Politicians and Journalists in Nine European Democracies

Current analysis of political communication is hugely engaged in the study of the linkage between media and politics as ingrained in the structure of media systems (Hallin and Mancini, 2004, 2012). This work has not only enhanced comparative research, it also triggered a lively debate about the categories and the nature of typologies of political communication systems. However, what has been neglected in this research is the subjective dimen- sion of political communication; this concerns the idea that the interaction between two groups of interdependent actors — politicians and journalists - is governed by mutual perceptions and professional norms. These orien- tations are referred to as ‘political communication culture’ (Blumler and Gurevitch, 1995; Pfetsch, 2004, 2014a). One specific, yet crucial, aspect of political communication culture relates to the attitudes that under gird concurrence or conflict in the relationship between politicians and journal- ists. In our study we analyze perceived conflict and cooperation between journalists and politicians and link the orientations to interpretations of the actors’ roles. We take a systematic comparative approach through inves- tigating how orientations towards conflict and concurrence vary across nine European democracies: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Our research contributes to the debate on the power relations between politicians and the media, which for a long time has drawn on normative arguments about who leads the dance on the floor of political communication.
Barbara Pfetsch, Peter Maurer, Eva Mayerhöffer, Tom Moring

12. It Didn’t Happen Here: Commercialization and Political News Coverage in Swedish Television 1998–2010

In most democracies and for most people, television constitutes the most important source of political and current affairs information. How televi- sion news covers election campaigns may thus have significant influence on how voters perceive and evaluate the candidates, parties, and issues at stake. At the same time, critics claim that media commercialization in terms of increased market-orientation has changed the style and character of elec- tion news, from descriptive to increasingly interpretive journalism, and from framing politics as issues to increasingly framing politics as a strategic game and as scandals. Notwithstanding such claims, there is a lack of longi- tudinal studies investigating television election news coverage and, overall, empirical evidence for possible effects of media commercialization on elec- tion news is rather scarce. Against this background, the objective of this chapter is to study changes in television news journalism in Sweden across the four election campaigns 1998–2010 and to discuss whether any changes can be related to media commercialization.
Lars W. Nord, Jesper Strömbäck

13. Global Climate Change, Global Public Sphere? Media Attention for Climate Change in 27 Countries

Societal problems and political competences have transnationalized in recent years (see Knill, 2001; Wessels, 1997), as have technological possi- bilities and the economic incentives for transnational mass communication (see Löffelholz and Hepp, 2002: 15; Parks and Kumar, 2003). Consequently, the question of a trans nationalizing of the public sphere (or spheres) has gained importance in communications (and in political science, e.g. Wessler et al., 2008; Koopmans and Statham, 2010b; Risse, 2010). This question is of particular relevance, in our view, to the case of anthropogenic climate change — a global phenomenon in its causes, effects and discussed solu- tions (e.g. Beck, 2007: 34). Therefore, we will examine whether a transna- tional public sphere is emerging around this issue. As ‘[virtually no other approach has the potential to bring communication studies further forward in the age of transnational!zation’ (Esser, 2013: 113), we will use a compara- tive approach for our study. Compared to other studies, we will analyze a rather large number of cases, 27 countries from all continents, going beyond the scope of many comparative analyses.1
Ana Ivanova, Andreas Schmidt, Mike S. Schäfer

14. Conclusion: Comparing across Space and Time — Challenges and Achievements in Political Communication Research

There has been a trend lately for taking stock of comparative political communication in handbooks, encyclopaedias, and scientific journals (Norris, 2009; Esser and Hanitzsch, 2012; Mancini and Hallin, 2012; Pfetsch and Esser, 2014). Most discussions stress the vivid emergence and improving quality of comparative studies. However, while the last ten years have seen a growing number of excellent scholars and eminent comparative studies, this does not necessarily mean that the comparative approach has fulfilled its promise completely. On the contrary, comparative research still faces hurdles in order to achieve its aspiration to go beyond mere descrip- tion and generate explanatory knowledge of how political communication works. Comparing the various aspects of political communication only reveals further complexities and risks of comparative research. Comparing across space and time allows for a more detailed and diverse picture, but also reveals contradictions, dilemmas, and unintended effects of political communication, since modern technology has created tremendous social and political changes in the substance, dynamics, and contexts of commu- nication. In this volume, scholars of comparative political communication accept the challenges to well-established comparative techniques, which are demonstrated impressively through their reflections and their writings, their designs and methods.
Barbara Pfetsch


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