Citizens, Politicians and the Media

Citizens, Politicians and the Media

Citizens, Politicians and the Media:

Evaluating Democratic Processes

SF2222; Spring 2011; 15 högskolepoäng/15 Higher education credits

University of Gothenburg

Bengt Johansson, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication

031-786 4984;

Elin Naurin, Department of Political Science

031-786 1243;

Administrator: Christina Petterson,

031-786 11 93;

Course website:

General information (version 2011-03-07)

The schedule and all other information is available from the course web site (GUL SF2222). Any changes, additions, or other messages will be posted there, as well as e-mailed to participants’ GU-addresses. In other words, please check your GU-addresses and the web site regularly during the course.


A major goal of democracy is to realize “the will of the people.” But how should this be achieved? How is it achieved in reality? To find out, this course zooms in on three groups of actors: citizens, politicians, and the mass media. We consider research on voting behaviour, political psychology, political participation, and political representation, the impact of the mass media, political journalism and news management. What does this research tell us about these actors and how they interact under different circumstances? How do these actors, and the relations between them, live up to requirements imposed by different models of democracy? What do research results reveal about how various democratic values can be realized?

Specific aims

Specifically, the course has three aims:

  1. To develop your knowledge of, and ability to critically evaluate, research on voting behaviour, public opinion, political psychology, political participation, political representation, the impact of the mass media, political journalism and news management.
  2. To develop your ability to analyze democratic issues in the light of empirical research. To what extent does current democratic processes live up to the ideals and assumptions of normative models of democracy. And how could democracy be improved: which democratic reforms seem promising given that we want to realize certain democratic models and values?
  3. To develop the participants’ academic writing and oral presentation skills.

The course is shaped by the lecturers as well as by students themselves. About two-thirds of the teaching hours are traditional one-way lectures. About one-third is spent on seminars where participants and lecturers discuss issues raised in the literature. The idea is to supplement the worldview of the lecturers with the knowledge and creativity of the participants. This should stimulate questions and answers that would otherwise not have seen the light of day.

As explained in more detail below, grading is based on:

(1) a written exam halfway into the course,

(2) an oral presentation where students work together in groups of two or three (“the Day of Creativity”),

(3) a shorter oral seminar presentation during the second half of the course, the contents of which is also reported in a short memo (1-3 pages),

(4) a written review essay of roughly 3,000-5,000 words, presented and defended in an oral presentation.

(5) active participation in the final “breakfast reflection”.


The theoretical and empirical content of the course are described in detail below where the lectures are outlined. The pedagogical idea of the course can be summarized in five headlines:

Introduction and welcome – getting to know the subject and each other

The course kicks off with an introduction and description of the aim of the course. Emphasis is put on defining the general goals of the course, as well as on presenting the participating students. The students will meet several different lecturers during the ten weeks of the course. To make the most of these contacts, it is important that the group quickly gets into a talkative and open atmosphere. Internationally competitive university courses put great emphasis on personal contacts both between students and between students and lecturers. It is our aim to create an environment where students feel relaxed and inspired and where they help each other in their studies.

Study hard – learning how others think

The introduction is followed by a series of lectures describing theories and results generated by a number of related research fields. The aim of this part of the course is that the students will get a good overview of what research has shown so far. This knowledge will be tested with the help of a written exam about halfway through the course. The exam will be based on the lectures and literature covered to this point. The students are encouraged to systematically create their own summaries of each lecture and corresponding literature when studying. Such summaries are sometimes called portfolios and become a concrete result of the course for the students to bring with them. The students are also encouraged to study together, discussing interpretations of the literature. The exam covers the general findings and arguments, not details. It is examined as pass (G), well pass (VG) or not pass (U).

Creativity – thinking outside the box

The hard work studying others ideas needs to be combined with encouragements to think independently. During the preparation for the written exam, a one day exercise on creativity is therefore built-in. The day is described in the document “Instructions for the Day of Creativity”. It is examined as pass (G) or not pass (U) via a short oral group presentation and active participation in the seminars.

Writing and presenting- creating something of your own

After the exam, it’s time to choose an individual book package (see below). This package, together with other relevant course literature, forms the basis of a review essay and a corresponding oral presentation by the end of the course. Instructions are found by the end of this document.

The job with the review essay means that you will spend many hours working on your own. Too much reading and writing in solitude is boring and counterproductive. So parallel to the work on the review essay, there are lectures that present research on specific or current topics. Students are expected to prepare one question each to the lectures where articles are mentioned as recommended readings (see description below).

Two discussion seminars are arranged to help in the process of writing the review essay. During these seminars each student contributes with one oral presentation based on a topic related to the review essay. A short PM lining up the important points of the presentation is turned in to the teacher. The students choose what topic they wish to talk about, and also which of the two seminar days they wish to do their presentation. They participate in both seminars with comments and questions to their fellow student colleagues.

Reflection – what have I learned? What more do I want to learn?

Self evaluation is a pedagogical tool that is used to promote reflection among both students and lecturers. This course ends with a “breakfast reflection” where students and the responsible lecturers together define what the students have learned during the course. Before the meeting, the students look back at the course, read their portfolios & the review essay and summarize in three points what they have learned, and in three other points what more they want to learn. The lecturers do the same. Everyone is free to bring their own breakfast. Active participation in the discussion means you pass this part of the course.

Lectures and literature

We now turn to short descriptions of the substantive lectures together with their respective reading lists.

The literature consists of the three text books listed below (available from the book store), together with a large number of articles from scientific journals and books. The latter can be accessed by GU students via the library’s electronic resources, unless otherwise stated. In some cases, paper handouts are provided, or files uploaded by lecturers.

  • Weale, Albert. 2007. Democracy. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Dalton, Russell J. 2008, fifth edition. Citizen Politics. Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies. Washington DC: CQ Press.
  • Stanyer, James. 2007. Modern Political Communication. Mediated Politics in Uncertain Times. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Monday 28 March 8.15-10.00 B110

Elin Naurin & Bengt Johansson

Abstract: This first meeting includes practical information and serves as a more formal introduction of the course. We also aim to get to know each other a bit more.



Monday 28 March 10:15—12:00 B110

Elin Naurin

Abstract: This lecture introduces models of democracy that can be used for analyzing empirical research on citizens, politicians and the media”? How can an analysis of the democratic relevance of empirical research on this subject be organized? And by the way, what do we mean by “Democracy”? What values should ideally be realized in a well-functioning democracy?

  • Berelson, Bernard. 1952. "Democratic Theory and Public Opinion." Public Opinion Quarterly 16:313-330.
  • Weale, Albert. 2007. Democracy. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave.



Tuesday 29 March 10:15—12:00 B110

Peter Esaiasson

Abstract: What do citizens know about politics? To what extent and under which circumstances does “the will of the people” exist at all? Are there ways in which uninformed citizens can still make informed choices? Would highly and equally informed electorates hold different policy and party preferences?

  • Dalton. Citizen Politics. Chapters 1 and 2.
  • Converse, Philip E. “The nature of belief systems in mass publics.” 1964. Reprinted in Critical Review 2006, Vol 18:1- 74.
  • Luskin, Robert C. 2002. "From Denial to Extenuation (and Finally Beyond): Political Sophistication and Citizen Performance." Pp. 217-252 in Thinking About Political Psychology, edited by James H. Kuklinski. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Available via GUNDA’s “e-books”.)
  • Lupia, Arthur. 1994. "Shortcuts versus Encyklopedias: Information and Voting Behavior in California Insurance Reform Elections." American Political Science Review 88:63-76.
  • Lodge, Milton, Marco R Steenbergen, and Shawn Brau. 1995. "The Responsive Voter: Campaign Information and the Dynamics of Candidate Evaluation." American Political Science Review 89:309-326.
  • Oscarsson, Henrik. 2007. "A Matter of Fact? Knowledge Effects on the Vote in Swedish General Elections, 1985–2002 " Scandinavian Political Studies 30:301-22.



Tuesday 29 March 14:15—16:00 B110

Bengt Johansson

Abstract: What role should the media play in a democracy? Should the media only supply voters with information or should perhaps the media also engage the electorate? And what is “quality” when it comes to journalism and its relation to democracy? Since there are a number of definitions of democracy, this lecture focuses on the way quality of news and media content can be related to different models of democracy.

  • Stanyer Chapters 4 and 5, Introduction and Conclusion
  • Marx Ferree, Myra; Gamson, William A, Gerhards, Jurgen & Rucht, Dieter. 2002 “Four models of the public sphere in modern democracies. Theory and Society 31:289-234
  • Asp, Kent. (2007) “Fairness, informativeness, and scrutiny. The role of news media in democracy”. Nordicom review vol 28:31-50 .
  • Zaller, John (2003) “A new standard of news quality : Burglar alarms for the monitorial citizen”. Political Communication 20:2 109-130
  • Strömbäck, Jesper. (2005) “In Search of a Standard: four models of democracy and their normative implications

for journalism”. Journalism Studies, Volume 6, Number 3, 2005, pp. 331!345



Thursday 31 March 10:15—12:00 B225

Henrik Oscarsson

Abstract: This lecture will introduce three classic traditions in research on voting behaviour and party choice: the sociological model, the social psychological model and the economic-rational model. The history and central concepts of these research traditions will be discussed as well as how these models of voting behaviour relates to different democratic ideals and models of democracy.

  • Dalton. Citizen Politics. Chapters 7-10.
  • Stokes, Donald E. 1963. "Spatial Models of Party Competition." American Political Science Review 57:368-377.
  • Carmines, Edward G, and James A. Stimson. 1980. "The Two Faces of Issue Voting." American Political Science Review 74:78-91.
  • Green, Jane 2007. "When Voters and Parties Agree: Valence Issues and Party Competition " Political Studies 55:629-655.



Thursday 31 March 13:15—15:00 B225

Henrik Oscarsson

Abstract: Is retrospective electoral accountability a feasible alternative for maintaining the electoral connection in democratic political systems? And is deciding whether to support the government or not based on its performance during the past incumbency period an easy option for citizens? Different institutional and contextual factors that facilitate or hamper retrospective electoral accountability will be discussed in this lecture.

  • Lewis-Beck, Michael S., and Martin Paldam. 2000. "Economic Voting: An introduction." Electoral Studies 19:113-121.
  • Anderson, Christopher J. 2007. "The End of Economic Voting? Contingency Dilemmas and the Limits of Democratic Accountability." Annual Review of Political Science 10:271-96.
  • Powell, G. Bingham, and Guy D. Whitten. 1993. "A Cross-national Analysis of Economic Voting: Taking Account of the Political Context." American Journal of Political Science 87:391-414.
  • Taylor, Michaell A. 2000. "Channeling Frustrations: Institutions, Economic Fluctuations, and Political Behavior." European Journal of Political Research 38:95-134.
  • Sanders, David 2000. "The real economy and the perceived economy in popularity functions: how much do voters need to know?: A study of British data, 1974–97." Electoral Studies 19:275-294.
  • Kumlin, Staffan. 2009. “Informed Electoral Accountability and the Welfare State: Experimental and Real-World Evidence” (available at
  • Butt, Sarah. 2006. "How Voters Evaluate Economic Competence: A Comparison between Parties In and Out of Power " Political Studies 54:743-766.
  • Carlsen, Fredrik. 2000. “Unemployment, inflation and government popularity – are there partisan effects?” Electoral Studies 19:141-150.


Friday 1 April 10:15--12:00 B225

Peter Esaiasson

Abstract: This lecture takes a closer look at the causes and motivations underlying different types of political participation. This includes large-scale collective activities such as electoral participation, party activities, as well as more individual modes of exercising influence. The key question is why some people participate in political processes whereas others don’t. Should we, and can we, avoid a concentration of political influence to an educated, materially privileged, and perhaps ethnically homogenous middle class

  • Dalton. Citizen Politics. Chapters 3 and 4.
  • Stanyer Chapters 6 and 7
  • Lijphart, Arend. 1997. "Unequal Participation: Democracy's Unresolved Dilemma." American Political Science Review 91:1-14.
  • Blais, André 2006. "What Affects Voter Turnout?" Annual Review of Political Science 9:111–125.
  • Adman, Per 2008. "Does Workplace Experience Enhance Political Participation? A Critical Test of a Venerable Hypothesis." Political Behavior. 30:1.


Friday 1 April 13:15-15:00 B225

GUEST: Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, University of Cardiff


Monday 4 April 8-16 B228 and Department of Journalism, Media and Mass Communication

Elin Naurin, Patrik Öhberg & Bengt Johansson

See the document “Instructions for the Day of Creativity”. The hard work studying others ideas needs to be combined with encouragements to think independently. During the preparation for the written exam, a one day exercise on creativity is therefore built-in. The students are divided into groups of two or three and spend the day designing a creative research proposal. The day is ended with a short oral presentation commented on by the rest of the group and the teacher.

8-9 Lecture in B228

9-10 Now you know the talk – but can you do the walk…?

10-10.30Fika at the Department of Journalism, Media and Mass Communication

10.30-12Ideas tested on the rest of the group.

12-14 Preparations

14-16 Presentations in B228


Thursday 7 April 14-17 CG-salen Handelshögskolan (byggnad F vån 4)

For Swedish speaking participants:


Frågor om demokrati har under senare tid ställts på sin spets: Internationellt har händelserna i Nordafrika visat på betydelsen av sociala medier och folkliga protester för omvandlingar av oönskade politiska system. Nationellt har brister i valsystemet lett till att nyval ska hållas i Örebro och Västra Götaland. Med Sverigedemokraternas inträde i riksdagen har vi fått ett nytt politiskt landskap. Var med och diskutera var forskning om opinion och demokrati befinner sig vid Göteborgs universitet och hur den bör utvecklas i framtiden. Alla är varmt välkomna!

Anmäl dig senast 1 april till

Participants: Lena Wängnerud, Peter Esaiasson, Abby Peterson, Anders Biel, Bengt Johansson, Göran Rosenberg, Helena Lindholm Schultz, Christian Munthe.



Friday 8 April 10:15—12:00 B225

Bengt Johansson

Abstract: The concept of mediatization is one of the most used in contemporary research on media impact on politics. But what is mediatization? What are the origins of the concept, definitions and critique? Is there research showing any proof of a growing mediatization of politics?

  • Hjarvard, Stig (2008): The Mediatization of Society. Nordicom-reveiew.
  • Meyer, Christoph O. (2009): Does European Union politics become mediatized? The case of the European Commission. Journal of European Public Policy 16:7 October 2009: 1047–1064
  • Strömbäck, Jesper (2008). Four Phases of Mediatization. An Analysis of the Mediatization of Politics. International Journal of Press/Politics, vol. 13(3), pp. 228-246.



Wednesday 13 April 10:15—12:00 B228

Elin Naurin


This lecture focuses on the concept of representation. We start with Hanna Pitkin's classical definition which puts "acting in the interest of the people" to the foreground of analysis. During the second hour we discuss what representation means in the context of contemporary European multi-party systems. The responsible party model is introduced.

  • Dalton. Citizen Politics. Chapter 11.
  • Weale: Democrcy Chapter 6
  • Powell, G. Bingham 2004. "Political Representation in Comparative Politics." Annual Review of Political Science 7:273–96.
  • Holmberg, Sören. 1989. "Political Representation in Sweden." Scandinavian Political Studies 12:1–36.
  • Huber, John D., and G. Bingham Powell. 1994. "Congruence between Citizens and Policymakers in Two Visions of Liberal Democracy." World Politics 46:291-326.
  • Blais, André, and Marc André Bodet 2006. "Does Proportional Representation Foster Closer Congruence Between Citizens and Policy Makers? ." Comparative Political Studies 39:1243-1262.
  • Royed, Terry. 1996. "Testing the Mandate Model in Britain and the United States: Evidence from the Reagan and Thatcher Eras." British Journal of Political Science 26.
  • Mansergh, Lucy & Robert Thomson (2007); “Election Pledges, Party Competition, and Policymaking”, Comparative Politics, Volume 39, Number 3, April 2007.