Mediated Contestation in Comparative Perspective

Research question/goal: 

Mediated contestation is an important arena for the articulation of identities and interests as well as a crucial context for democratic governance and problem solving. This project aims at identifying the relevant macro-social and media-related preconditions of mediated contestation as well as systematically assessing them from different normative perspectives.

The extent, structure, content and style of mediated contestation over issues related to religion/secularism are analysed in six democracies (USA, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, and Lebanon) and three media types (daily newspapers, news websites, and political blogs). The project tests hypotheses regarding the influence of two macro-social conditions and two important media attributes. The two macro conditions are (1) the structure of the political system (majoritarian vs. consensus democracies) and (2) the existence or non-existence of a deep cultural division (contested vs. uncontested secularism). The media attributes studied are (3) the degree of users’ opportunities to respond to media content (low for daily newspapers vs. high for news websites and political blogs) and (4) the level of opinion orientation (low for daily newspapers and news websites vs. high for political blogs). In the first part of the project representative and comparable samples of media material will be analysed using standardized content analysis as well as automated topic modeling. Data analysis will rely on multilevel regression models. A follow-up study will later be proposed for continued funding, in which a series of comparative case studies will be conducted following the logic of Lieberman’s nested analysis. These case studies will be based on extended media samples (including social media) and shed light on the causal mechanisms that underlie the formation and characteristics of mediated contestation. In a final step these empirical patterns are subjected to a multiperspectival normative assessment that uses standards derived from liberal, republican, deliberative, and agonistic theories of democracy.

Current stage: 

We completed the collection of digital and non-digital raw text data for this project. Currently, we are preparing the analysis of these raw data, which encompass about 1.6 million text documents published between August 2015 and July 2016 by 119 newspapers, news websites, and blogs from the six countries investigated (Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, the USA, Australia, and Lebanon). Furthermore, a new automated approach to classifying collected documents according to their topic, drawing on expert data input, is currently being developed in collaboration with the Data and Web Science Group in the School of Business Informatics and Mathematics. We conducted expert surveys in all six studied countries to weight the results of this thematic classification approach. In addition, we are preparing manual coding of the thematically classified documents: A multilingual coder team receives training for human text coding, resulting data are tested for quality, and customized software to aid manual coding is being implemented with the help of partners at the University of Zurich. A field trip to Turkey helped to coordinate the data collection in cooperation with the Izmir University of Economics (financed by the Erasmus+ programme). Recent theoretical and methodological project findings were presented at several conferences and are being prepared for publication in academic journals.

Fact sheet

2012 to 2017
Data Sources: 
Quantitative media content data (own data gathering)
Geographic Space: 
USA, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Lebanon