Research project

Paying attention to attention: Media exposure and opinion formation in an age of information overload

This project raises the question of whether online sources and social media platforms exacerbate polarisation and inequality in political knowledge and behaviour, and what role weak ties play in moderating citizens’ information diets. To that end, we study how offline events are translated into media coverage, why people decide to consume or avoid coverage, and how these decisions affect attitudes and behaviour. We combine passive metering technologies to capture the online media consumption habits of a representative sample of individuals in Germany and the United States, and draw on machine learning and natural language processing methods to estimate the topic and ideological slant of each individual piece of content consumed. In conjunction with this, we survey the panelists directly and at regular intervals to monitor changes in issue attention, opinion, and political knowledge.

The project is conducted by Simon Munzert in collaboration with Prof. Pablo Barberá (London School of Economics), Prof. Andrew Guess (Princeton University), and Prof. JungHwan Yang (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).


This project has received more than 730,000 EUR in funding from the Volkswagen Foundation.





Project lead