Closing Ceremony Political Communication in Times of Social Media

Thorsten FaasOn 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.

DiskussionThe 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.

New Research Project: Political Communication in Times of New Information and Communication Technology

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.

Report on the Local Election Project in Mainz

Kommunalwahlen_ProjektberichtOn occasion of the local election in May 2014, we conducted a project on “Local elections in Mainz: A Project on voter mobilization”. The project report is now available for download here.

In the run-up to the Mainz local election of 2014, we conducted a field experiment in order to investigate the effectiveness of mobilizing procedures. Door-to-door visits are generally regarded as a successful mobilizing tool but there had not been any empirical studies for Germany before. With the help of different mobilizing treatments (door-to-door and flyers) in randomly chosen districts, we examined to which extent the treatments had an effect on the voting behaviour. The study was accompanied by a survey. The report summarizes the idea and background of the project as well as its structure and implementation. The results are documented in two parts; they show that door-to-door visits in fact help to mobilize voters.

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Media Broadcastings on Regional and European Elections

SWR_TFAs European and regional elections are coming closer, they (finally) reach broad media attention and public discussion. Our team “Methods of Empirical Political Research” accompanies these events from a scientific perspective: Which effects do TV debates have? What does the decreasing voter turnout imply? What can be done against this development? Thorsten Faas reported the results of his research in several media appearances in the last couple of days. Amongst them was an SWR-Forum contribution (SWR2, 13.5.) named “Protest und Plattitüden – Vor welcher Wahl steht Europa?” as well as a TV interview on the program “Zur Sache Rheinland-Pfalz” on the 15th of May (SWR).

Both broadcastings can be found on the relevant websites:

Live experiment about TV debate

tvduellWith the help of a live experiment on Thursday, our team has examined perceptions and effects of the TV debate between the top candidates of the European election. 36 students participated and watched the live debate in the University. The project is part of a European comparison – All around Europe, students were watching the debate! While watching, the German participants could assess the performance of Schulz, Juncker, Verhofstadt, Keller, and Tsipras. Results will be published soon!

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Research project on mobilization for by-elections using the example of the 2014 local election in Mainz

The department “Empirical Political Research” will carry out an innovative project on mobilization potentials of different ways of election campaign communication.
The motivation for our work is the negative trend of election turnout, especially with regard to by-elections such as local elections. We want to find out how different ways of election campaign communication can lead to the mobilization of different groups of voters. This way, our results are to offer an added value not only for scientific research but also for political actors. More information on the project can be found at the respective project website.

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Study results published

chart In the context of our research project “Bürgerbeteiligung und Direkte Demokratie in Baden-Württemberg” subsequent to the referendum on Stuttgart 21, which continuously examines political developments and trends in Baden-Württemberg, a tabulation volume of the last telephone survey (July 15 – August 16, 2013) as well as a presentation belonging to it have been published.
Two years after the referendum, still 70 percent of the people living in Baden-Württemberg consider the referendum as “good” or “very good”. Moreover, the majority is “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the way democracy works in Baden-Württemberg. There is practically no dissatisfaction. Most of the people also think that there are enough opportunities for political participation in Baden-Württemberg. However, citizens’ knowledge concerning such opportunities vary extremely.
The publication was also echoed by the media, e.g. SÜDWEST PRESSE, Stuttgarter Zeitung, and Mannheimer Morgen.

In addition to this, Thorsten Faas gave an interview on the basis of the study results, which can be found on

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Peer Steinbrück, candidate for the position of chancellor, was positively assessed by viewers of the head-to-head debate on TV.

Examination of perception and effect of the 2013 head-to-head debate on TV
During a joint live experiment, the University of Koblenz-Landau and the University of Mainz (JGU) examined the perception and effect of the 2013 head-to-head debate of Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union) and her challenger Peer Steinbrück (Social Democratic Party). 326 citizens participated in the examination by watching the debate on TV in the Universities of Koblenz, Landau or Mainz. While watching the debate, they could assess Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück either with the help of control dials or push buttons. Additionally, participants had to fill out questionnaires before and after the debate in order to summarize their opinions. The main results were that Peer Steinbrück could score points and that the participants positively assessed the debate on TV.

Project on e-teaching and e-learning

The unit “Methods of Empirical Political Research” will work on a project on e-teaching and e-learning in the winter semester 2013/2014.

Using Moodle as a platform, additional didactically-prepared material for the Statistics II courses will be available (e.g. additional exercises, Stata glossaries, short introductions to statistical methods).

Our medium-term aim is to broaden this sort of medial companion with regard to further statistical programs such as SPSS and R and to offer an open access for all faculty students.

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Twitter reactions on the TV debate

The unit “Empirical Political Research” analyzes Twitter reactions on the TV debate in the run-up to the Bundestag election. It will be analyzed if Twitter data can be used as a valid measurement for real-time reactions on the debate. The number of tweets as well as their content will be considered with the help of content-analytical techniques such as sentiment analysis. Furthermore, the project examines if classical offline measuring of reactions on political processes coincides with online measuring. The examination therefore describes possibilities of how to measure individual reactions on political happenings in real time.

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