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Article

Gatekeeping, Technology, and Polarization  

Stuart N. Soroka and Mia Carbone

Research on media gatekeeping is focused on the factors leading to a distribution of information in media content that is systematically different from the “real world.” Early gatekeeping work examined editorial decisions, and emphasized the effect that a single editor’s preferences and beliefs could have on the content new consumers receive. The literature has gradually shifted to focus on more generalizable factors, however. These include organization-level assessments of newsworthiness and commercial/economic considerations; broader system-level factors including the impact of dominant ideologies and political and social norms; and common individual-level factors, including a range of cognitive and psychological biases. This article summarizes research on each of these factors, alongside recent work that uses a “distributional” approach to illustrate the gatekeeping process. The tendency for humans to prioritize negative over positive information is one cognitive bias that can be understood as a gatekeeping effect, and so this bias is discussed briefly here as one example of a set of organization-, system-, and individual-level “gates” that have a systematic impact on news content. Negativity is just one example, however. The impact that various cognitive and institutional biases have on news provision and consumption has shifted over time alongside technological change. Sensationalism, violence, and politically divisive content—all of these elements of media coverage can be considered effectively using the gatekeeping metaphor. This is the focus of the penultimate section of this article.

Article

Legitimacy Strategies and Crisis Communication  

Jesper Falkheimer

Legitimacy and crisis are closely related concepts. A crisis may even be viewed as a process of legitimation. Legitimacy is a collective perception about which actors and institutions that have the right to rule, regulate, and decide. Crises put legitimacy at stake and may, depending on the premises and management strategies, challenge, enhance, or impair legitimacy. Legitimacy and communication are entwined into each other. Legitimacy as a process is dependent on communication in its original sense: ritual communication as a sacred ceremony that unites people and creates a community. When legitimacy is put at stake, organizations and other actors use strategic communication to respond to, confront, and impact the outcome by the use of different crisis (or legitimacy) communication strategies and tactics. But while legitimacy is an old concept, the premises for handling legitimacy have changed. One way to view this shift, from a societal theoretical standpoint, is to focus the shift between modernity and late modernity as an interpretative framework. Increased diversity and mobility, globalization, reflexivity, and mediation are new premises for legitimacy work. The multivocal and multifaceted character of late modern society challenges organizational as well as societal legitimacy, especially in crisis situations. Political debates and critical reasoning questioning the role and actions of different social institutions are necessary from a democratic standpoint, but when core societal institutions are delegitimized, risks occur. This may be happening in several Western societies, with increased polarization and fundamental questioning of important institutions. Crises (e.g., the coronavirus pandemic) and how they are handled and managed by existing institutions may be radical turning points of legitimacy in governance. Crisis management and communication have developed as possible tools for organizations to handle legitimacy crises. Simplified, one may use three theories of legitimacy strategies in crisis as developed in the applied field of crisis communication. These three theories include image repair theory (rhetoric), situational crisis communication theory, and a broader array of alternative network and complexity theory.

Article

Discussion Networks in Political Decision Making  

Ian Shapiro, Steven Richardson, Scott McClurg, and Anand Sokhey

Decades of work have illuminated the influence interpersonal networks exert on voting behavior, political participation, the acquisition of political knowledge, tolerance, ambivalence, and attitude polarization. These central findings have largely been grounded in examinations of political discussion and have remained robust to measurement differences of key concepts like disagreement, various data collection methods, and multiple research designs ranging from the cross-sectional to large-scale field experiments. By comparison, scholars understand considerably less about individuals’ motivation to approach their social contacts when it comes to politics, and about why networks produce the outcomes that they do; this calls researchers to reflect on and revisit previous research, but also to consider new paths of research. Although there is a growing body of promising work focused on “whole,” or complete, networks, much can also be gained by better integrating social psychology into the study of egocentric, or “core,” political networks. Answering these (and other) questions will help connect current findings, emerging methods, and nascent theory. Such connections should advance dialogues between research on group influence, discussion networks, and individual political behavior.

Article

Threat Framing  

Johan Eriksson

What is “threat framing”? It concerns how something or someone is perceived, labeled, and communicated as a threat to something or someone. The designation “threat,” notably, belongs to the wider family of negative concerns such as danger, risk, or hazard. Research on threat framing is not anchored in a single or specific field but rather is scattered across three separate and largely disconnected bodies of literature: framing theory, security studies, and crisis studies. It is noteworthy that whereas these literatures have contributed observations on how and under what consequences something is framed as a threat, none of them have sufficiently problematized the concept of threat. Crisis analysis considers the existence or perception of threat essential for a crisis to emerge, along with a perception of urgency and uncertainty, yet crisis studies focus on the meaning of “crisis” without problematizing the concept of threat. Likewise, security studies have spent a lot of ink defining “security,” typically understood as the “absence of threat,” but leave the notion of “threat” undefined. Further, framing theory is concerned with “problem definition” as a main or first function of framing but generally pays little or no attention to the meaning of “threat.” Moreover, cutting across these bodies of literature is the distinction between constructivist and rationalist approaches, both of which have contributed to the understanding of threat framing. Constructivist analyses have emphasized how threat framing can be embedded in a process of socialization and acculturation, making some frames appear normal and others highly contested. Rationalist approaches, on the other hand, have shown how threat framing can be a conscious strategic choice, intended to accomplish certain political effects such as the legitimization of extraordinary means, allocation of resources, or putting issues high on the political agenda. Although there are only a handful of studies explicitly combining insights across these fields, they have made some noteworthy observations. These studies have shown for example how different types of framing may fuel amity or enmity, cooperation, or conflict. These studies have also found that antagonistic threat frames are more likely to result in a securitizing or militarizing logic than do structural threat frames. Institutionalized threat frames are more likely to gain and maintain saliency, particularly if they are associated with policy monopolies. In the post-truth era, however, the link between evidence and saliency of frames is weakened, leaving room for a much more unpredictable politics of framing.

Article

The Effects of Negative Advertising  

Conor M. Dowling and Yanna Krupnikov

Since the 1960s there has been an increase in the amount of negative advertising in American campaigns. Although only 10% of advertisements aired in the 1960 campaign were negative, in the 2012 campaign only 14.3% of aired ads were positive. The increase in negative advertising has raised questions about the effects these types of ads may have on the electoral outcomes and the political process at large. Indeed, many voters and political actors have assumed and argued that negative advertising will have negative consequences for American politics. Although many news consumers and people interested in politics make many assumptions about the role of negativity in politics, the effect of campaign negativity on the political process is ambiguous. If there is a relationship between negativity and political outcomes, this relationship is nuanced and conditional. Although negativity may, under certain conditions, have powerful effects on political outcomes, under other conditions the effects of negativity are minimal. Moreover, while there is some research to suggest that this type of campaigning can produce negative consequences, other research suggests that negativity may—at times—be beneficial for the political process.

Article

Going Public and Presidential Leadership  

Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha

Going public is the preeminent governing strategy of modern presidents. When presidents go public, they attempt to influence the decisions, actions, and opinions of others through speechmaking and other public engagement. Although some scholars of the rhetorical presidency show how presidents have used speeches to govern since the dawn of American democracy, the bulk of scholarship centers on the modern presidency, as both advances in communications technologies and changes in federal policymaking institutions spurred presidents to go public. Going public as a leadership strategy involves a variety of presidential speeches designed to reach a range of institutions and actors. Strategies include going local, speaking on national television, or saturating news coverage by sustaining attention to a top priority. The president’s target audience can be Congress, the public, news media, or bureaucracy. Presidents have had some success going public, although the ways in which presidents have been successful vary by strategy and target audience. Going public is more than just presidential leadership of others. It is also about what incentivizes the president’s efforts to use speeches to govern in the first place. Thus, a second focus of research on going public is what explains speechmaking and the tendency of presidents to respond to those institutions and actors that they also attempt to lead. The majority of existing research centers on presidential leadership of, and responsiveness to, mass public opinion, but the emergence of a more polarized public may influence why presidents go public and may change what political scientists conclude concerning going public and presidential leadership in a more polarized political age.

Article

Archival Research in Foreign Policy  

Deborah Welch Larson

Although more scholars have used archival evidence to analyze foreign policy in recent years, relatively little has been written on the methods involved in using archives as well as the evidentiary value of different types of documents. Analyses of foreign policy decisions often make use of narratives or process-tracing. Process-tracing should uncover the causal mechanisms wherever possible in order to explain foreign policy decisions. Primary sources are extremely useful in uncovering causal mechanisms, whether public opinion, bureaucratic politics, advisory group dynamics, or psychological processes. Through archival evidence, the researcher can capture how policymakers perceived the world at the time, unbiased by hindsight, and their calculations. Because psychological evidence shows that people do not necessarily know what influenced their decision, scholars should not necessarily take at face value the reasons that policymakers give for their actions. It is useful for political scientists to carry out their own archival research because historians have different implicit theories and may not gather data of relevance to the theories being tested. In addition, through examining the documents, political scientists may be able to discriminate between competing historical interpretations of the same event. It is important to interpret documents within their historic, situational, and communication contexts. The document’s place in the policy process—the sequence of memos and discussions—helps to determine its meaning and impact on the final decision. In order to interpret statements that are apt to be biased by instrumental motives, the investigator should consider who said what to whom under what circumstances and with what purpose.

Article

Crisis Memorials: Balancing Renewal and Resilience  

Shari R. Veil, Chelsea L. Woods, and Ryan Crace

The development and maintenance plans of the three 9/11 memorials and museums are examined to explore how crisis memorials and museums strategically communicate to maintain collective crisis memory. Memorial professionals accept that the location of the memorial is nonnegotiable, engage community partners in the design and development of crisis memorial features, maintain focus on the mission to ensure long-term viability of the memorial, solicit and archive shared stories of remembrance to foster a prospective vision, and concentrate on learning to foster healing and adaptive capacity.

Article

Communication Technology and African Politics  

Sharath Srinivasan and Stephanie Diepeveen

From global amplifications of local protests on social media to disinformation campaigns and transformative state surveillance capabilities, digital communications are changing the ways in which politics works in Africa and how and with whom power accrues. Yet while digital information technology and media are relatively new, the role of communication in state power and resistance on the continent is not. The “digital revolution” provokes us to better account for this past to understand a rapidly changing present. From language and script, to print and broadcast, to mobile applications and digital databases, how information is circulated, processed, and stored is central to political power on the African continent. The story of political change in Africa cannot be told without attention to how power manifests with and through changes in the technologies that enable these communication practices. A communication technology perspective on the study of politics in Africa provides a more sober analysis of how power relations circumscribe the possibilities of political change than more normative approaches would. Even so, a communication approach allows for social and ideational factors to mix with material ones in explaining the possibilities of such change. Communication technologies have been central to what political actors in Africa from the precolonial past to the early 21st century can and cannot do, and to how political change comes about. Explorations across time, political era, and technological development in Africa allow us to unpack this relationship. In the precolonial period, across forms of centralized and decentralized political organization, oral communication modalities reflected and enabled fluid and radial logics of authority and power relations. Changes in moral and practical ideas for political organization occurred amid early encounters with traders and Islamic scholars and texts and the movement of people to, from, and within the continent. Colonialism, which heavily focused on narrow extractive aims, required alien central authorities to overcome the vulnerability of their rule through knowledge production and information control. Equally, the same communication technologies valued by colonial authority—intermediaries, print, radio—became means through which resistance ideas circulated and movements were mobilized. In independent Africa, political aims may have changed, but communication infrastructures and their vulnerabilities were inherited. The predicament facing postcolonial governments had a communications dimension. Later, their ability to forge rule through control and allegiance had to contend with a globalizing information economy and demands for media pluralism. A communications perspective on the history of power on the African continent therefore guides a fuller understanding of change and continuity in politics in a digital age by drawing attention to the means and meanings by which legitimacy, authority, and belonging have continued to be produced and negotiated. Transnational configurations of information flows, global political economy logics of accumulation and security, and communicative terrains for contesting authority and mobilizing alternatives have been shown to possess both distinctly new characteristics and enduring logics.

Article

Crisis Communication  

Matthew Seeger

Crisis communication may be understood as the process of creating and exchanging messages between interdependent stakeholders in conditions of high uncertainty, threats to high-priority goals, and the need for immediate response created by a crisis. This process occurs through established channels and networks of communication, using a variety of message forms. Feedback, message consistency, message tailoring, message reach, transparency and openness, immediacy, credibility, and coordination with key groups, among other factors, are related to effectiveness. Communication within the context of crisis is necessary for coordination, sense-making, effective response, recovery, renewal, learning, and the development of resilience. Processes of communication generally follow the developmental nature of crises from pre-crisis conditions where risks develop and incubate to post-crisis conditions where social and organizational structures, processes, and norms are reconstructed. Crisis communication is closely related to risk communication that concerns the ongoing process of exchanging messages to monitor, understand, and manage risks. Effective communication is essential to the successful management of crises, and communication functions should be included in crisis and risk policy formation and planning as well as response and recovery. Communication may also promote the development of resilience and contribute to system renewal.

Article

Communication Dynamics in Religion and Politics  

Paul A. Djupe and Brian R. Calfano

In the main, the link between religious variables and political choices is wrapped up in a communicative process of exposure and adoption. Specifically, people become exposed to religious teachings and viewpoints within religious contexts, they then must determine whether and to what extent they will adopt those teachings and viewpoints as their own, and then they must adapt them to political ends. Critical to this approach is the acknowledgment that religious social and institutional contexts are rife with diversity, even within religious traditions. This diversity extends to religious adherents, congregations, and elites and means that people receive a variety of religious and political cues from religious sources across time and space. It is this variation that is critical to measure in order to understand religion’s effects on political behavior. That is, documenting the implications of religious diversity is as much a question of research design as it is a theoretical framework. This framework is flexible enough to accommodate the growing literature examining political input effects on religious output. The norms and patterns of exposure and adoption vary by the combination of the communicator and context: political communication in congregations, religious communication effects on politics in congregations, and religious communication by elites in public space. There are very few instances of political elites in religious spaces, at least in the United States. Presidents and other political elites have used religious rhetoric throughout American history in varying proportions, though how they have used it is changing in the Trump era to be much more particularistic and exclusive rather than the traditional broad and inclusive language of past presidents. A central variable moderating the impact of communication is credibility, which can be demonstrated in multiple ways, including political agreement as well as religious office, rhetorical choices, and decision-making processes. Religious elites, especially, battle against the weight of history, inattention, and misperception in their attempts to lead prophetically. As a result, religious elite influence, in the sense of changing hearts and minds, is a fraught enterprise. Naturally, we recommend adopting research designs that are appropriate for incorporating measurement on communication exposure so we can appropriately understand adoption decisions. This demands some creativity on behalf of researchers, which also drives them toward experimental work where exposure questions are built into the design and affords them a great deal of control.

Article

Typology of Media Systems  

Daniel C. Hallin

Typologies are a central tool of comparative analysis in the social sciences. Typologies function to identify common patterns in the relationships among elements of a media system and wider social system, and to generate research questions about why particular patterns occur in particular systems, why particular cases may deviate from common patterns, and what the consequences of these patterns may be. They are important for specifying the context within which particular processes operate, and therefore for identifying possible system-level causes, for specifying the scope of applicability of particular theories and for assessing the validity of measurements across systems. Typologies of media systems date to the publication of Four Theories of the Press, which proposed a typology of authoritarian, libertarian, social responsibility, and Soviet Communist media systems. Hallin and Mancini’s typology of media systems in Western Europe and North America has influenced recent work in comparative analysis of media systems. Hallin and Mancini proposed three models differentiated on the basis of four clusters of variables: the development of media markets; the degree and forms of political parallelism; journalistic professionalism; and the role of the state. Much recent research has been devoted to operationalizing these dimensions of comparison, and a number of revisions of Hallin and Mancini’s model and proposals for alternative approaches have been proposed. Researchers have also begun efforts to develop typologies including media systems outside of Western Europe and North America.

Article

Emphasis Framing and Political Decision Making  

Thomas E. Nelson

Frames are distilled and coherent representations of complex social and political issues. A frame defines what an issue is about. Emphasis frames give special prominence to one aspect or feature of an issue. An example is the “reverse discrimination” frame for the issue of affirmative action, which emphasizes the potential costs of affirmative action to the superordinate group. Emphasis frames have attracted attention from several disciplines, including political science, sociology, psychology, journalism, and communication, with each contributing theoretical insight and empirical demonstration. Emphasis frames manifest themselves in communicated messages and in the minds of individuals. Emphasis frames often originate in political actors such as social movement organizations, interest groups, and leaders. These actors hope to effect political change by disseminating framed messages that represent the actors’ positions on the issue. News organizations transmit emphasis frames, in whole or in part, in the course of covering an issue. Organizational norms and procedures within the mass media can also shape the frames that ultimately appear to the audience. Research has linked several political outcomes to emphasis frames, not the least of which is the influence that a communication frame has on the frame in the audience’s mind. Frames can influence the interpretations of the issue, judgments about what is most relevant to the issue, and even opinions about the issue. Framing has also been linked to changes in public policy. At the same time, there are a number of individual and contextual factors that can govern how strong a frame’s impact will be. Frames that harmonize with an individual audience member’s values or schemata might be especially effective, while individuals with strong prior opinions might be less affected by frames. Researchers have proposed different psychological models of how emphasis frames influence audiences. Some have argued that framing overlaps considerably with other communication effects such as agenda-setting or priming. The key argument is that the frame activates specific beliefs, feelings, values, or other components of political judgment and opinion. Other models propose that framing affects the perceived importance, relevance, or applicability of activated considerations. Still other models stress the impact of frames on the attributions audiences make about who or what is responsible the origins of a social problem and its solution. A final category of models includes emotional response as a key mediator of frame effects. Several significant challenges confront emphasis framing researchers. Scholars should seek to better integrate research at different levels of analysis of framing. They must also demonstrate framing’s relevance in the modern communication landscape, along with its distinctiveness from other familiar communication phenomena.

Article

Signaling in Foreign Policy  

Erik A. Gartzke, Shannon Carcelli, J Andres Gannon, and Jiakun Jack Zhang

Costly signaling offers a solution to many foreign policy dilemmas. Though most commonly studied in the context of the bargaining theory of war, signaling can also play an important role in nonzero-sum interactions such as those characterized by chicken (e.g., nuclear deterrence) and the prisoner’s dilemma (e.g., tariff reductions). A rich game theoretic literature explains how actors can signal credibly in these situations. The most prominent strategies are sinking costs (actions that are costly ex ante) or tying hands (actions that are costly ex post). These strategies are theoretically elegant but have generated considerable controversy when studied empirically. One controversy concerns the existence of hand-tying domestic audience costs under different regime types. A second controversy involves the degree to which sinking costs increase or decrease the risk of war. These controversies speak to the inherent tension between theories of strategic interactions and measuring their outcomes in the foreign policy process, where some events are off the equilibrium path and thus unobserved. The limited availability of foreign policy data was a major hindrance in earlier empirical efforts. Even as the quality of this data has improved, focus has been on the outcomes of conflict (crisis onset, escalation to war, victory, defeat) rather than the strategy. This is problematic given that all crises are sequential in nature and understanding the action–reaction cycle is vital to illuminating patterns of war, capitulation, and settlement. The frontier of research in the signaling literature is in bridging this gap. The advent of big data and machine learning has enabled more systematic empirical analysis of strategic moves by various foreign policy actors, including signaling. Some researchers, such as Lindsay & Gartzke, are harnessing these new data and methods to explore the means of signaling. Other scholars are beginning to ask questions about the efficacy of public versus private signaling, the role of ambiguity, and dyadic versus multi-actor signaling. This new wave of research seeks to nudge signaling closer to the concerns of foreign policy practitioners.

Article

Cognitive Complexity in Political Contexts  

Shannon C. Houck, Kathleen J. Huber, Mackenzie Ess, and Morgan L. Proulx

Cognitive complexity refers to open-minded, flexible, multidimensional thinking. An individual demonstrating high complexity interprets nuance, thinks about multiple perspectives, distinguishes among ideas, and considers their connections. Conversely, cognitive simplicity involves more concrete information processing wherein an individual may gravitate toward a singular perspective without recognizing alternatives or nuances. Cognitive complexity is a multifaceted construct that has been conceptualized as both a personality trait and a flexible information processing system that changes across situations. This “trait versus state” distinction has led to a wide array of measurements that can be broadly categorized by three distinct methodological approaches: (a) self-report measures, (b) behavioral measures, and (c) language content analysis. Having multiple and often divergent measures of the same construct can pose challenges in some regards, yet it also provides researchers flexibility in how to examine questions at the intersection of politics and cognition. Focal areas of inquiry center around the causes and consequences of cognitive complexity as they relate to political ideology, political attitudes and behavior, and political peace and conflict, among other political dynamics. One of the dominating questions that has driven theory and research in political psychology concerns political ideological differences in cognitive complexity. Research comparing cognitive complexity across the political spectrum suggests political moderates are generally more complex than both conservatives and liberals, whereas conservatives tend to be less complex than political liberals. The relationship between cognitive complexity and political ideology is qualified by several factors, such as the type of complexity measurement used and the topic under consideration. Other research finds that individuals seeking power, such as candidates campaigning for election or advocates fighting for political change, will generally find more success in cognitively simple strategies (e.g., using simple rather than complex communication). Maintaining positions of political power, on the other hand, demands more complexity. These findings have implications that extend beyond elections and governance, some of which are relevant to political peace and conflict. For example, research finds that cognitive complexity is generally associated with peace, and simplicity with violence. Several avenues for future research exist in both theoretical and applied disciplines. One of many possibilities involves the relationship between cognitive complexity and political division and distrust. How do division and distrust influence how people think and process information with respect to cognitive complexity? Does the presentation of “fake news” impact the complexity of thought among media consumers; if so, what consequences might that have on political attitudes and decision-making? Relatedly, research has examined the features of complex (vs. simple) linguistic styles that differentiate true and false stories, finding that liars demonstrated lower cognitive complexity in their deceptive communication. Future research is needed to investigate the possible applications for estimating and predicting deception in news sources and among political leaders. Aside from these examples, the cognitive complexity construct and its variety of measurement approaches affords researchers interested in political domains countless avenues for continued investigation.

Article

Information and Communication Technology, Transparency, and Accountability  

Catie Snow Bailard

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are rapidly, profoundly, and simultaneously changing three structural properties that define contemporary communication systems. How we encode information, the means for transmitting this encoded information, and the networks that determine who can send and receive that information have changed dramatically with the advent of the Internet and mobile technology. Although the political events, outcomes, and behaviors precipitated by the political opportunities created by these ICTs are neither uniform nor automatic, this dramatic reshaping of contemporary information landscapes does have clear consequences for the quantity and range of information available to citizens across the globe. There are also evident effects on the communication costs that are integral to political organization. Additionally, there are indisputable implications for the informational relationship shared by governments and their citizens. Each of these sets of effects creates new opportunities for accountability and transparency in the electoral process and for the processes of governance more generally, in the context of developed democracies but also in developing and non-democratic countries.

Article

Think Tanks and Foreign Policy  

Lars Brozus and Hanns W. Maull

Foreign policy think tanks originated in the context of the Industrial Revolution and world wars in Western industrialized countries and then spread to all parts of the globe. In the process their national orientations toward governments and their attentive national public audiences have evolved toward a global perspective. As a consequence, they also have been drawn into, and have contributed to, the debate about the future of the Western-dominated international order. What exactly makes a think tank remains contested, but there is broad agreement on the variety of functions they fulfill. They bring knowledge to power, but power also uses them to advance its political agenda. As the idealistic notion of expert knowledge as a solution to political problems has fallen by the wayside and advocacy think tanks have flourished, the interaction of think tanks with governments, the media, and the public has become politicized. In liberal-democratic countries, there is a growing trend toward competitive knowledge production by think tanks, whereas in authoritarian systems, think tanks are increasingly being used as instruments of state-controlled public diplomacy. Ultimately, think tanks have to bridge the tension between the needs of decision-makers, on the one hand, and the standards of scientific inquiry and orientation toward the common good, on the other hand. This tension cannot be resolved, but it can be made productive. For this, a strong emphasis on professional integrity will be essential.

Article

Media, War, and Foreign Policy  

Sean Aday

Mass media play an important but often misunderstood role in wartime. Political elites try to marshal support for military intervention (or justify avoiding such involvement) through the press. Media sometimes serve as watchdogs, holding leaders accountable for their claims and actions in times of conflict, but more often appear to act as uncritical megaphones for bellicose rhetoric. The public, meanwhile, has little choice but to see war through the prism of media coverage, placing a great burden on the press to cover conflicts truthfully and thoroughly, a responsibility they sometimes live up to, but in important ways do not. Scholarship about these issues goes back decades, yet many questions remain unanswered or up for debate. There seems to be strong consensus that media coverage of conflict is even more elite driven than is domestic coverage, for instance, yet how much that matters in shaping public attitudes and support for war remains contested. Similarly, research consistently shows that the press shies away from showing casualties, yet the effects of exposure to casualty information and images are still not well understood. Finally, digital media seem to be important factors in contemporary crises and conflicts, but scholars are still trying to understand whether these platforms more serve the interests of protest or repression, peace or violence, community or polarization.

Article

A Revisionist Perspective on Framing Effects  

Jiawei Liu and Dietram A. Scheufele

There is a dichotomy in framing research that can be traced back to its multidisciplinary origins in psychology and sociology. Definitions of framing rooted in psychology are concerned with the differential presentation of the otherwise identical information and are often referred to as equivalence framing. Definitions rooted in more sociological traditions investigate how a message can be constructed with different sets of information to highlight contrasting perspectives on the same issue. The latter is typically referred to as emphasis framing. Although often subsumed under the same label, equivalence framing and emphasis framing are systematically different, both conceptually and operationally. Therefore, the two traditions need to be carefully distinguished in terms of their origins, conceptualization and operationalization of frames, underlying mechanisms, cognitive outcomes, and their relationships with other media effects theories. Categorizing existing studies revealed two major pitfalls in framing effects literatures. First, many political communication studies to date have adopted the emphasis framing approach. However, as substantial manipulation of information introduces confounding variables making it difficult for researchers to attribute the effect on the audience to the change of frames, this approach has relatively low internal validity in experiments and can hardly be distinguished from other cognitive media effects models, such as agenda setting and priming. Thus, the bias toward emphasis framing needs to be addressed by conducting research with equivalence frames so that a more concrete causal relationship between message framing and its effects can be established. In addition, little attention has been given to visuals in framing effects research so far. Considering that people consume information in a multimedia environment online, visual frames and verbal-visual interactions need to be further investigated.

Article

The Legitimation of Repression in Autocracies  

Maria Josua

In research on authoritarianism, both legitimation and repression have received growing attention since the late 2000s. However, these two strategies of political rule do not form separate pillars of power; they are interlinked and affect each other. Autocrats not only rule with an iron fist, but they also seek to legitimize their use of repression vis-à-vis at least some of their citizens and the outside world. These legitimizing discourses are part of political communication in autocracies and can be studied using the approach of framing. So far, few researchers of the protest–repression nexus have studied how protesters are being framed by officials in autocracies. The communication of repression varies widely across autocracies. Authoritarian incumbents differ in their degree of openness vs. opacity, impacting also on how they publicize, admit to, or conceal certain forms of repression. When choosing to justify acts of repression, multiple factors influence which types of justification are used. One decisive factor is against which targets repression is employed. In framing the targets of repression in a certain way, autocratic elites pursue a twin strategy in that they seek to attain the approval of certain audiences and to deter potential or actual dissidents. Furthermore, justifications diverge regarding which actors use them and towards which audiences. Past experiences and regime characteristics also impact on how repression is justified. This research program offers great potential for studying state–society relations in autocracies. It cuts across research on political violence, authoritarian legitimation, and political communication. For understanding the persistence of autocracies in times of contention, it is an important piece in the puzzle of authoritarian survival strategies illuminating the “dark side” of legitimation.