Eike Mark Rinke
A framework for critical-empiricist research in political communication

International Communication Association Preconference “Normative Theory in Communication Research”, San Diego, CA, 25. Mai 2017

Empirical research on political communication can play an important role in informing debates about the democratic value of various political communication processes. However, the degree to which political communication researchers can live up to this task depends on how systematically they relate their empirical investigations to concerns formulated in normative conceptions of democracy. In this paper, I present a framework for the empirical normative analysis of political communication. Based on the two core research procedures of normative assessment and empirical validation, it provides a model of the relations between normative and empirical research and a template for the empirical study of normatively relevant aspects of political communication. The paper systematizes the relations between normative theory and empirical reality, and discusses the two core procedures for empirical researchers to productively bridge the two. The framework is supposed to foster systematic exchanges between empirical studies of political communication and normative democratic theory and clarify the contribution of empirical studies to democratic theory, practice, and reform. It also implicates additional justification for greater use of controlled experimental research and cross-context comparative studies.