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IP 6: How media report on political institutions beyond the state – a computer-based content analysis

The process of “mediatization”, that is the growing influence of the media in politics, has been identified as one of the major challenges to democracy and therefore has been studied by the NCCR Democracy since the research program’s inception. Collecting and analyzing data on how the media report on politics, therefore, is an integral part of the NCCR’s research. So far, the research projects have mainly relied on manual content analysis approaches. As manual coding is very time- and resource-intensive, the NCCR Democracy in its third phase has introduced a new research project that will implement a largely automated approach in order to select media documents and to classify their content.

This horizontal project led by computational linguists and political scientists will support the research projects across Module 1 by providing them with the media content data they need for their analysis. Moreover, the project pursues its own research agenda as it will adapt existing technology used in computational linguistics to the field of political communication and develop genuinely new methods.

The aim of the project is to analyze media reporting on political institutions beyond the nation-state that are increasingly taking over decision-making authority from traditional forms of governance. This analysis will be based on a list of institutions compiled by the other projects in Module 1 and will focus on the following questions:

  • How often do the institutions under scrutiny find attention in the media (“salience”), especially in comparison to traditional governmental institutions?
  • Is the tone of the media reporting positive, therefore legitimizing or supportive, or negative and therefore delegitimizing or criticizing the institutions?
  • Which communication frames are associated, in terms of democratic functions, with the institutions being scrutinized? Are they, for example, framed as transparent, effective, or inclusive?
  • How do salience, tone, and communication frames diffuse within different media systems?

The analysis will be based on media reporting in four different countries — Switzerland, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom — including quality-, tabloid-, forum-based-, and local newspapers as well as quality online sources such as highly regarded political blogs.

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Project leaders:
PD Dr. Gerold Schneider, University of Zurich
Dr. Bruno Wüest, University of Zurich

PhD student:
Michael Amsler, University of Zurich