Projects & Profiles

Back To Projects

Political Communication and Engagement in the 21st Century

2009-2011 (COMM and POSC)

Since the infancy of the Internet, scholars in Communication and Political Science have posited that the medium could mobilize and engage citizens. This project was driven by questions about how exactly new media technology affect individual attitudes toward politics as well as political behavior. We conducted a national online survey to answer two major research questions: To what extent do online emotional appeals by candidates lead people to engage with politics? And are citizens’ motivations to engage in politics online driven by a desire to influence government (i.e., participate) as well as to communicate political ideas to others (i.e., communicate)? To answer the first question, we showed respondents screenshots from a fictional candidate’s website where the candidate expressed either "angry", "hopeful", "anxious" or no emotions about the economy. Respondents then indicated how likely they were to participate on his behalf. We found that, contrary to concerns that using emotions in politics will agitate the least knowledgeable or engaged citizens and distort the democratic process, it is the most engaged and politically sophisticated voters whose decisions are swayed by these appeals. For the second question, we explored the ways in which these two behaviors—which we delineate as participation and discussion—are perceived by citizens in online versus offline contexts. We also examine how such perceptions can predict certain behaviors, such as "friending" a candidate on a social networking site and messaging with friends online about politics. It turns out that these behaviors are indeed perceived differently among American citizens, and that these perceptions can predict the likelihood of participating in online political forums.

Project Team

Lindsay Hoffman, Ph.D. (The Ohio State University, 2007) joined the faculty of the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware in September, 2007. Her research examines political uses of new technology; the contextual effects of media on individuals’ perceptions of public opinion in different communities; the effects of viewing political humor on learning and participation; as well as communication and political socialization.

Philip Edward Jones, Ph.D. (Harvard University, 2009) joined the Department of Political Science and International Relations at UD in 2009. His research interests include public opinion, campaigns and elections, interest groups, political representation, and democratic accountability. Professor Jones’ current research investigates how American voters hold their Members of Congress accountable for the policy decisions they make.

Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania, 2007) joined the Department of Communication at UD in 2007. Young’s research includes political media effects, public opinion, political satire and the psychology of political humor. Her work on the role and effects of late-night comedy in the changing political environment has been widely published in Communication and Political Science publications.

Julio Carrión, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh, 1993) joined the Department of Political Science and International Relations at UD in 1998. He specializes in Latin American and comparative politics. He is currently conducting research on mass support for authoritarian alternatives in Latin America. He teaches courses in Latin American Politics and data analysis for political science. Professor Carrión currently serves as Director of Area Studies at UD.

David C. Wilson, Ph.D. (Michigan State University, 2005) joined the Department of Political Science and International Relations at UD in 2006. He teaches courses in statistics and data analysis, research methodology, and public opinion. Professor Wilson's research areas are political psychology and survey research methods, and he specializes in public opinion on racial attitudes, workplace politics, and survey context effects.