Summary

This project examines how the current changes in the political information environments in European democracies affect the conditions for a healthy democracy. This is done through a series of comparative, innovatively designed studies, including web tracking, comparative surveys, focus groups and survey embedded experiments in 14 European countries and the US.

About the project

THREATPIE: The Threats and Potentials of a Changing Political Information Environment examines how the current changes in the political information environments in European democracies affect the conditions for a healthy democracy. As a theoretical background, we employ the concept of ‘political information environment’ (PIE) that includes both the supply and demand of political news and information. Supply refers to the quantity and quality of news and public affairs content provided through traditional and new media sources, demand captures the amount and type of news and information the public wants or consumes. Recent changes in the political information environment may lead to a growing number of uninformed, misinformed, and selectively informed citizens, potentially endangering the functioning of democracy. To examine these concerns, the study aims at investigating the following:

  • How do citizens today gain political information and how does this relate to their political attitudes and behaviour?

  • What is the content and quality of the information citizens are exposed to?

  • Where do divides between being informed and not being informed exist, across and within European societies?

  • How can citizens be empowered to navigate and find valuable information?

We will do this through a series of comparative, innovatively designed studies, including web tracking, comparative surveys, focus groups, and survey-embedded experiments in 14 European countries and the US. These countries vary on a number of key contextual factors relevant for the study, covering both “young” and established democracies with different democratic traditions, media systems, and news consumption habits.

The THREATPIE project commences during 2020 and will run for 36 months. The project is financially supported by the NORFACE Joint Research Programme on Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age and co-funded by FWO, DFF, ANR, DFG, NWO, NCN, AEI, and ESRC, and the European Commission through Horizon 2020 under grant agreement No 822166.

Work Packages

Work Package 01

This WP is responsible for overall project management, progress monitoring, reporting, finances, and evaluations.

Members:
- David Nicolas Hopmann

Work Package 02

This WP - by conducting a series of focus groups - will map the understanding of the changes in PIE from an academic perspective and those of politicians, journalists, and citizens.

Members:
- Agnieszka Stępińska
- James Stanyer
- Nicoleta Corbu
- Ana Sofia Cardenal
- Christian Schemer
- Sergio Splendore
- Christine E. Meltzer
- Patrick van Erkel
- Ludovic Terren
- Luisa Gehle
- Denis Halagiera

Work Package 03

Based on the preliminary results, this WP begins assessing the scope of challenges. We will use browsing web-tracking behaviour data to study exposure directly.

Members:
- Karolina Koc-Michalska
- Ana Sofia Cardenal
- Jesper Strömbäck
- Yannis Theocharis
- Agnieszka Stępińska
- Christine E. Meltzer
- Ludovic Terren
- Luisa Gehle
- Denis Halagiera

Work Package 04

The goal of this WP is to tap into the use and demand of information supply. In each country, a survey will be fielded and answered by a sample representative of the adult population.

Members:
- Christian Schemer
- Ana Sofia Cardenal
- Frank Esser
- Sergio Splendore
- Jörg Matthes
- Václav Štětka
- Christine E. Meltzer
- Ludovic Terren
- Luisa Gehle

Work Package 05

During this WP, we will develop strategies to ameliorate the potential negative consequences of deficient media use.

Members:
- Peter Van Aelst
- Claes de Vreese
- Toril Aalberg
- James Stanyer
- Patrick van Erkel

Work Package 06

Based on the empirical insights we will develop a policy solution and produce an educational video to be used at the high school level informing about the consequences of PIE.

Members:
- Claes de Vreese
- David Nicolas Hopmann
- Tamir Sheafer
- Patrick van Erkel
- Denis Halagiera