Just before Christmas, the “German Politics” special issue „E-Campaigning in Germany: A Net Revolution?“ was published. The contributions in this issue primarily address the 2009 German Bundestag election and give exciting theoretical and empirical insight into the potential of new media for political communication. The issue also contains an article by Julia Partheymüller and Thorsten Faas:
On November 18, the closing ceremony for our project „Political Communication in Times of New Information and Communication Technology“, which was realized in cooperation with the Bonn Academy of Research and Teaching Practical Politics and YouGov, took place in the Federal State Representation Office of Hamburg in Berlin. Thorsten Faas and Benjamin Sack presented central results of a longitudinal survey, which was carried out in five waves from July 2013 to September 2015.
The so called “filterbubble” attracted special interest. The results show that facebook users and their friends, to a great extent, favor the same political parties. This tendency is even more pronounced for the “Alternative für Deutschland“. Yet, it was not only because of this part of the talk that the hashtag of the event #pksm15 trended on twitter.
The following panel discussion, which was moderated by Christian Krell and in which Alexander Schweitzer, Holger Geißler, Jasmin Siri, and Thorsten Faas participated, centered around the new knowledge on the filterbubble. The idea of social media as a catalyst for political communication was disillusioned. Holger Geißler noted that social media is primarily “social“, not “political”. Alexander Schweitzer confirmed the filterbubble tendency from his own experience: Among his facebook friends the Social Democrats form an absolute majority.
There was also a stream on Periscope, which also attracted interest. The link will soon be published.
From June 11-12, our team of empirical political researchers contributed in numerous ways to this year’s annual conference „Nichtwahl und non-elektorale Formen politischer Partizipation im Spiegel der Wahl- und Einstellungsforschung“ (“Non-Vote and Non-Electoral Ways of Political Participation Reflected by Election and Attitude Research”) organized by the DVPW (German Association of Political Scientists) working group „Wahlen und politische Einstellungen“ (“Elections and Political Attitudes”).
On Thursday, Daniela Hohmann and Thorsten Faas gave a talk on „Ein altes Wahlkampfinstrument im neuen Glanz: Welchen Beitrag können Haustürbesuche zur Mobilisierung von Wählern leisten? Analysen aus einem Feldexperiment im Kontext der Mainzer Kommunalwahl 2014” (“An Old Election Campaign Tool Shining in New Splendor: To Which Extend Can Door-to-Door Visits Mobilize Voters? Analyses from a Field Experiment within the Context of the 2014 Regional Election in Mainz“). Since the last Bundestag election, door-to-door election campaigning has regained public attention. In their analyses, the researchers found out that door-to-door visits have a positive effect on voter mobilization.
In her contribution „Krise oder Normalisierung der Demokratie: Wer will direkte Mitsprache?“ („Crisis or Normalization of Democracy: Who Wants a Direct Say?“), Julia Range asked who supports direct democracy and citizen participation. Her analyses are based on data from the research project Bürgerbeteiligung und direkte Demokratie in Baden-Württemberg („Citizen Participation and Direct Damocracy in Baden-Wuerttemberg). While the politically unsatisfied and less educated support citizen participation, she warned that these people might not actually use the potential of political participation.
On Friday, Christina Eder (GESIS) and Thorsten Faas gave a talk on „Gegen den Bahnhof = für grün-rot? Eine Analyse des Wahl- und Abstimmungsverhaltens in Baden-Württemberg 2011“ („Against the Train Station = in Favor of Green/Red? An Analysis of the voting behavior in Baden-Wuerttemberg in 2011). Eder and Faas traced the lines of conflict concerning the infrastructural project Stuttgart 21 and discussed its impact on the voting behavior of the Citizens of Baden-Württemberg in 2011.
Also, Benjamin Sack focused on Stuttgart 21 in his talk: „Der Effekt direkt-demokratischer Beteiligung auf Demokratiezufriedenheit und politisches Vertrauen“ (“The Effect of Direct Democratic Participation on the Satisfaction with Democracy and Political Trust). He examined the often assumed influence of direct democratic participation on the satisfaction with democracy and political trust. A first evaluation of the data showed that there are short-term effects on the satisfaction with democracy, which decrease in the long run, but that there is no impact on political trust.
This week’s Tuesday, the former president of the Hessian Statistical Office, Eckart Hohmann, was our guest. Within the framework of our Statistics I lecture, he gave a talk on „Die politische Funktion der amtlichen Statistik im Wandel – von der retrospektiven Dokumentation zur Steuerung politischer Interventionen“ (“changes in political function of official statistics – from retrospective documentations to controlling political intervention”).
According to Hohmann, the increased relevance of official statistics, especially with regard to international and supranational institutions, is a new challenge to processes and products of official statistics. Additionally, Hohmann stressed the tension between the political relevance of produced numbers and the necessary independence of official statistics.
The following issue of German Politics will include an article by Julia Partheymüller and Thorsten Faas, which can be downloaded in advance:
Since April 2015, our group of „empirical political science“ edits the working paper series „Mainzer Beiträge zur empirischen Politikforschung (M.BeeP)“ in order to make current results of our research on electoral behavior and attitudes accessible to the public.
With the help of field experimental methods, the first article by Thorsten Faas and Daniela Hohmann examines whether mobilizing measures in local elections, such as door-to-door visits or the distribution of flyers, have a positive effect on the turnout. This and upcoming articles can be found on the M.BeeP website ().
In cooperation with the Bertelsmann foundation, our team of empirical political researchers accompanies the participatory process of the planned transparency law in Rhineland-Palatinate. The aim of our study, which includes several different methods, is to examine whether the process meets the criteria of good citizen participation and to which extent the participatory process has an impact on the citizens’ attitudes towards the planned transparency law, democracy in Rhineland-Palatinate in general and the participatory process itself. Furthermore, public opinion and the “participatory footprint” will be scrutinized.
Further information on our project are available on our project site.
Our new project in cooperation with the Bonner Akademie für Forschung und Lehre praktischer Politik (BAPP) investigates changes of political communication as a consequence of new information technologies. The project examines the impact of social media usage on the attitude and behavior of voters and focuses on the corresponding consequences for political communication in Germany.
Since January 2015, I am a member of Thorsten Faas’ project on “political communication in times of new information and communication technology“. Promoted by the Bonner Akademie für Forschung und Lehre praktischer Politik, the project investigates the influence of social media usage on the attitude and behavior of voters and the corresponding consequences for political communication in Germany. Last December, I completed my Master’s degree in “Empirical Democracy Studies” at the University of Mainz, where I also achieved my Bachelor’s degree in “Political Science”. My research interest lies in the fields of political psychology and communication, comparative attitude-, value-, and participation research, and the methods of empirical social science.
In the context of Thorsten Faas’ seminar on organized interests and lobbyism, Professor Thomas Leif, chief reporter at the SWR regional channel in Mainz, was our guest. He presented his documentary “Leif trifft Lobbyisten” (Leif meets Lobbyists). Lobbyism is of special interest as there are two sides of the coin. On the one hand, it is criticized that former politicians shift their careers to companies while, on the other hand, a dialogue between politicians and the affected groups is needed for successful legislation. On this basis, the issue was controversially discussed after the lecture, which was attended by around 60 people. Moreover, Leif also gave some background information on his film.