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Media effects: How media influence voters

In their daily routine, all citizens partake, albeit not always consciously, in mass communication. This communication takes place in various channels, such as newspapers, magazines, television, billboards, and social media sites. It even occurs indirectly via discussions with other media users. Extensive research over the past decades has shown that these contacts with media content may have effects on the cognitive, affective, behavioral, and even physiological level (Potter 2012: 35ff). Such media effects are of special significance where they are intended by political or social stakeholders, aiming to alter public opinion or influence and mobilize voters. Due to their role as intermediaries between the political system and the public, media organizations and journalists who produce and relay content to citizens play a major role in current democracies (Kübler and Kriesi 2017). They fulfil an important double-function in a democracy by informing the public of political processes and reflecting the public opinion for the political elites. It has been argued that any deliberate use of the media as an instrument to manipulate public opinion or political processes would pose a strong challenge to any modern democracy. This challenge was investigated in The National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Democracy in three extensive research projects that focused on the extent and nature of media effects on public opinion under varying circumstances. In a combined research design, panel surveys, media content analyses, and experiments were conducted to assess the role of media effects in the run-up of referenda, in mediated public debates, and in the context of populism. In this paper, we first provide an overview and typology of media effects with focus their political relevance before briefly presenting and discussing the results from this research project.

Project Number IP 9: A look into the black box — how populist communication strategies affect citizens' attitudes
Author(s) Wettstein, Martin & Werner Wirth
Series/Publication Swiss Political Science Review 23(3)
Year 2017
Pages 262-269
URL http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/spsr.12263/full
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