Implicit and Explicit Racism in News and Social Media: Extent and Effects

Research question/goal: 

This project investigates implicit and explicit racism in the mediated public sphere (established news media, alternative media, social networks) in Germany and its effects on racist stereotypes in the population. We build on a shorter project that was funded within the first round of the DeZIM racism monitor, in which we successfully developed instruments for the automated measurement of explicit and implicit group-related stigmatization in the news coverage of select key media outlets. Based on this research, we will now capture a broader picture of the larger mediated public sphere in Germany. We will investigate the following questions:

  1. Which ethnical, cultural, or religious groups are portrayed with positive or negative connotations in which areas of the mediated public sphere?
  2. What are the differences between the implicit and explicit emotional tonality of news coverage of different groups within established media, alternative media, and social media?
  3. In which thematic context do we find a significantly larger share of explicit or implicit negative connotations relating to specific groups?
  4. How does the degree of implicit and explicit negative associations in the mediated public sphere affect implicit and explicit racist stereotypes in the population?

We draw upon established theories from social psychology and communication research related to group attribution and stigmatization, starting with Social Identity Theory and Social Categorization Theory, which capture the centrality of group membership in how people perceive themselves and others. Mediated discourses play an important role in the reproduction of such group schemes, especially concerning the attitudes towards outgroups (“Mediated Intergroup Contact”).

To analyse the entirety of these influences, we investigate negative as well as positive attributions within the mediated public sphere. Furthermore, we account for manifest as well as latent messages media content can contain, corresponding to findings that people hold both explicit and implicit negative or positive attributes towards social groups. Therefore, we measure both explicit group evaluations and implicitly value-laden statements within the German mediated public sphere. This will include traditional journalistic media, regional media, alternative online media, and relevant political social media accounts. Through continuous data collection over the whole project period, we will capture a longitudinal image of the degree of explicit and implicit racist stigmatization within the German mediated public sphere.

In a second project module, we will investigate the effects of explicit and implicit group-related stigmatization on explicit and implicit group-related attitudes. We will employ a large-scale experimental design using the rich-stimulus sampling strategy, which allows us to model the independent factor (degree of stigmatization within media content) as a continuous variable.

Current stage: 

Data collection and processing is currently underway in both project pillars, content analysis and effects experiment. We have conducted initial content analyses, the findings from which have been published as a paper in the inhouse publication series ‘MZES Fokus’. Journal publications will follow. Simultaneously, we are working on (1) advancing our conceptual approach to describe the relationships between racism and the media and (2) the publication of a successful validation of our methodological approach to measuring implicit group stigmatisation in media texts.

Fact sheet

2022 to 2024
Data Sources: 
Longitudinal content analysis data; experimental survey data
Geographic Space: