The Media Side

The project part 'Media Side' conducts a systematic and extensive content analysis of the coverage of Austrian politics and politicians on television, in newspapers, regional weeklies, magazines and on news sites during the eight weeks before the day of the election. The project serves two major purposes:

(1) The expansion of our knowledge about and understanding of how political media messages are produced in times of elections and what the results in terms of media content are like. How are the issues of the campaign and the images of the political personnel constructed and mediated? Here, the interrelations between media, the parties’ own communication efforts and those of their leaders during the campaign as well as their consequences for media content are the core of our analyses. For this purpose, the data that AUTNES generates for the Supply Side of the campaign is extremely useful.
Among other research goals in this realm, one is to explore the causes for structural as well as partisan biases in the coverage. Another one addresses how the media depict Austrian national identity and how its construction may be influenced by political actors as part of their strategy to create a distinctive ideological profile and mobilize voters.

(2) The second major focus of our project is the impact of media coverage on the electorate compared to other forms of campaign communication such as party advertizing, canvassing, and personal conversations among the citizens themselves. Media influence their audiences (a) as mediators – by conveying politicians’ messages to voters – but also (b) as communicators in their own right – by selecting, prioritizing and interpreting information as well as by producing it themselves. Thus, media produce political knowledge. They make voters aware of political agendas and convey characteristics of parties and politicians. With the help of the Demand-Side data of AUTNES, we analyze a whole range of possible communication effects. A major research area within this part of our study addresses the function and impact of political information on the Internet.