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 modelling. 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 multi-perspective normative assessment that uses standards derived from liberal, republican, deliberative, and agonistic theories of democracy.

Current stage: 

We have completed the collection of about 1.6 million text documents from 119 daily newspapers, news websites, and political blogs from six countries (Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Australia, and Lebanon). The raw text data was pre-processed using semi-automated techniques and is currently being coded in detail by human coders. At the same time, we are supplementing the text data set with data on user-driven mediated debates on social media platforms in all studied countries. Online surveys of media experts from the six countries are employed to identify the pertinent online debate forums. In addition to this empirical work, the first methodological and substantive project publications are in preparation.

Fact sheet

2012 to 2020
Data Sources: 
Quantitative media content data (own data gathering)
Geographic Space: 
USA, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Lebanon