Eike Mark Rinke
Normative analysis of political communication

Oxford bibliographies in communication. 2018. New York, NY: Oxford University Press

Political communication researchers who want to understand the empirical possibilities of democratic political communication need to engage in normative analysis. Normative analysis of political communication, in the sense used in this article, refers to research that explicitly connects empirical (or “positivist”) inquiry into communication phenomena as they are with normative inquiry into communication phenomena as they ought to be. Such connections have always been made in political communication scholarship, but researchers in the early 21st century have become increasingly aware of the need for systematic procedures to connect the empirical and the normative sides of political communication. Any sound normative analysis of political communication must rest on three components: a set of well-developed criteria against which to judge the quality of political communication, plausible procedures for putting them to use in empirical research, and empirical data relevant to these criteria generated by such research. The body of work devoted to an integrated view of the development of criteria in normative theory, the procedures for employing them in empirical research, and their application in empirical studies is not itself well integrated. This article includes relevant contributions from diverse literatures ranging from classic works to contemporary applications of normative analysis. In doing so, it presents normative analyses of the way in which both journalism (colloquially known as “the media”) and ordinary citizens communicate about politics and public affairs. Together, the collected literature illustrates the way in which normative analysis, rather than being intrinsically normative in a political sense, enables a structured two-way exchange between the normative theory and empirical study of political communication in any given society.