Media, Information Consumption, and Politics

Project summary

Media, information consumption and politics (MICAP) is motivated by the goal of expanding our knowledge of the consequences of a profoundly changed media environment on the formation of voters’ attitudes and behaviors. This project was designed before the background of an intriguing fact: most observers of media segregation, media communication and political behavior in the digital age opt for either the development of holistic theoretical frameworks or for the empirical analysis of partial bits and pieces of the potential linkages behind these processes. Thus, and this constitutes the rationale for our project, we lack a fuller theoretical and empirical understanding of the disruptive developments produced by the Internet that affect our democracies, and in particular the modern election campaigns.

Our main objective is therefore to shed new light, in a European context, on the effects of media segregation on media consumption and public opinion formation processes. We use both mainstream methods that have firmly established themselves in political science (such as large-n surveys and randomized field experiments) but also truly innovate by making use of new technological tools (and in particular a smartphone application) that will enable us to gather so far inaccessible information. Also, we will be able to link the “old” and “new” news media consumption with the usage patterns regarding “objective” campaign information, such as the one produced by voting advice applications during election campaigns.

With this project we pursue the ambition to explore uncharted territories of public opinion formation by linking previously non-related subfields, such as political psychology and political communication, and introducing a most innovative research design. The expected results have important implications for our scientific understanding of political behavior during elections. We aim at answering crucial questions, such as: how do voters inform themselves through news media? Are information bubbles and echo chambers a real existing outcome of the strongly enlarged choice set in the world of news media? What are the mechanisms leading to segregated or diversified media consumption during elections and how do these patterns impact on political attitudes of voters? How is non-partisan, non-media produced information consumed and how does it affect public opinion? Can the mindset of individuals indeed explain the patterns we are researching in this field? The answers to these questions will also travel well beyond the scientific community, informing wider publics in Europe and beyond.

More information follows.