Research project

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

This project asks if 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 technology to capture the online media consumption of a representative sample of individuals in Germany and the United States, draw on machine learning and natural language processing methods to estimate the topic and ideological slant of each separate piece of content consumed, and in parallel directly survey the panelists 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