Frank Esser

Frank Esser
University of Zurich | UZH · Institut für Kommunikationswissenschaft und Medienforschung – IKMZ

Professor

About

234
Publications
173,236
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7,598
Citations
Additional affiliations
February 2006 - present
University of Zurich
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (234)
Article
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The increasing dissemination of online misinformation in recent years has raised the question which individuals interact with this kind of information and what role attitudinal congruence plays in this context. To answer these questions, we conduct surveys in six countries (BE, CH, DE, FR, UK, U.S.) and investigate the drivers of the dissemination...
Article
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Although the problem of disinformation is on the rise across the globe, previous research has found that countries differ in the extent of widespread disinformation. In this study, we examine the willingness to disseminate disinformation across six countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S.). We use a model by Humprecht...
Article
Mediatization research has repeatedly been accused of not taking sufficient account of the role of the audience. Whereas audience orientation is often implicitly assumed in concepts of commercial news logic, a stronger consideration of the audience in news media logic is needed, particularly in times of more interactive and participatory digital me...
Article
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While the role of social media in the spread of conspiracy theories has received much attention, a key deficit in previous research is the lack of distinction between different types of platforms. This study places the role of social media affordances in facilitating the spread of conspiracy beliefs at the center of its enquiry. We examine the rela...
Article
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Studies have extensively discussed what characterizes news media sources as alternative. However, this study focuses on users and the range of news sources they perceive as alternative media. We expect that these audience perceptions vary between countries, depending on the level of media fragmentation and polarization. We use original survey data...
Article
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Throughout the current global health crisis, false and misleading content has proliferated on social media. Previous research indicates that users of social media primarily share information that contains attention-grabbing elements. Because sensationalist elements are prevalent in disinformation, this study examines the role of sensationalism in s...
Article
Exogenous shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic unleashes multiple fundamental questions about society beyond public health. Based on the classical concept of ‘need for orientation’ and the literature on the role of the media in times of crisis, we investigate to what extent the COVID-19 pandemic affected news consumption in comparative perspective. Ba...
Article
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Democratic politics builds on both clear differences and shared common ground. While the rise of digital media may have enabled more differences to be articulated, common ground is often seen as threatened by fragmentation of political debate, which some see as driven by news media. The relative importance of political actors (parties and politicia...
Article
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Previous research posits that individual predispositions play an essential role in explaining patterns of selective exposure to political information. Yet the contextual factors in the political information environment have received far less attention. Using a cross-national and quasi-experimental design, this article is one of the first to investi...
Article
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The transition from low- to high-choice media environments has had far-reaching implications for citizens’ media use and its relationship with political knowledge. However, there is still a lack of comparative research on how citizens combine the usage of different media and how that is related to political knowledge. To fill this void, we use a un...
Article
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Media fragmentation and polarization have contributed to blurring the lines between professional and non-professional journalism. Internationally, more fragmented-polarized media environments are often associated with the emergence of non-professional news providers, the weakening of journalistic standards, and the segmentation of audiences along i...
Chapter
This chapter examines the dimensions of the political communication system. It first explains the rationale for a comparative study of political communication before discussing relevant models of relationship between media and political institutions, as well as differences in political communication cultures among media and political elites. It the...
Chapter
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Das Kapitel beantwortet die folgenden Fragen: Warum reden wir über Populismus? Verstehen wir den heutigen Populismus besser, wenn wir die Rolle der Medien berücksichtigen? Gewähren europäische Nachrichtenmedien den Populisten eine kritiklose Bühne? Neigen Nachrichtenmedien selber zu populistischer Kommunikation? Wie reagieren Populisten auf kritisc...
Chapter
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Research has shown that social media is a particularly well-suited channel for distributing populist messages. However, it has hardly been explored what type of audience reactions populist communication triggers on social media and whether populist political leaders garner more support online than political leaders who do not represent populist vie...
Preprint
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For the fifth edition of Caramani’s textbook Comparative Politics (OUP, 2020), we have fundamentally revised our chapter from the previous edition and updated it in the light of the latest literature. We describe the emergence of hybrid ecosystems of political communication in model form and propose them as macro-units for comparative research. On...
Article
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Online disinformation is considered a major challenge for modern democracies. It is widely understood as misleading content produced to generate profits, pursue political goals, or maliciously deceive. Our starting point is the assumption that some countries are more resilient to online disinformation than others. To understand what conditions infl...
Chapter
Research has shown that social media is a particularly well-suited channel for distributing populist messages. However, it has hardly been explored what type of audience reactions populist communication triggers on social media and whether populist political leaders garner more support online than political leaders who do not represent populist vie...
Chapter
For the fifth edition of Caramani’s textbook Comparative Politics we have fundamentally revised our chapter from the previous 4th edition and updated it in the light of the latest literature. The chapter is structured along the core dimensions of contemporary political communication systems. It first explains the rationale for a comparative study o...
Chapter
This volume assembles a wide range of perspectives on populism and the media, bringing together various disciplinary and theoretical approaches, authors and examples from different continents and a wide range of topical issues. The chapters discuss the contexts of populist communication, communication by populist actors, different types of populist...
Chapter
Zwischen 1998 und 2018 ist der Stimmenanteil für links- und rechtspopulistische Parteien quer durch Europa von durchschnittlich 7 Prozent auf 27 Prozent gestiegen. Zwar blieb bei der Europawahl 2019 das von manchen befürchtete populistische Erdbeben aus, aber dennoch gehörten Nigel Farages Brexit Party, Matteo Salvinis Lega und Marine le Pens Rasse...
Article
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The recent demand to strongly contextualize findings of political communication research (Rojas & Valenzuela, 2019) should be welcomed. Such a call is pushing at an already open door, particularly with scholars engaged in comparative research. Comparative research is essentially about context; it is context-sensitive in the way that it aims to unde...
Article
Although research on effects of populist communication has increased, it is still unclear how populism in news articles affects the readers’ manifest behavior, such as whether and how they comment on online news. To address these issues, we conducted a content analysis of online news articles (N = 332) and corresponding reader comments (N = 2786) d...
Chapter
This chapter highlights the particular advantages of comparative international approaches for media policy research. It starts by explaining the basic logic and main objectives of comparative analysis. Further sections of the chapter are devoted to different design types and related methodological procedures. Finally, special attention is given to...
Article
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The article not only identifies important achievements of comparative international research of election campaign communication but also highlights their challenges. Focusing in particular on content analyses, the article finds that comparative studies examine either the messages of the news media (and here, so far, only the reporting of traditiona...
Article
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This article investigates the extent to which populist key messages are distributed via online news articles and reader comments, as well as how media actors, political actors, and readers employ populist online communication during election periods. Populism is defined as a thin ideology, and four dimensions of populist communication are distingui...
Chapter
European media systems have been affected by major changes in the last few decades that have facilitated the dissemination of populist messages, including increased media ownership concentration, increased commercialization, and a stronger orientation towards news values (Esser, Stępińska, & Hopmann, 2017). At the same time, Europe has faced severa...
Chapter
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Against the background of the variation in populism between countries exposed in the previous chapter by Blassnig et al., this chapter will focus on article, newspaper, and country-level explanatory factors for this variation. Evidence for between-newspaper variation with respect to populist communication has already been presented elsewhere (Manuc...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on trends in reporting over time. It examines the presence of populist key messages in “news coverage of immigration” and “commentaries on current political events” in European newspapers at two points in time, namely spring 2016 and spring 2017. The chapter has a twofold aim. First, it will explore similarities and differences...
Article
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The studies in this volume conceptualize populism as a type of political communication and investigate it comparatively, focusing on (a) politicians’ and journalists’ perceptions, (b) media coverage, and (c) effects on citizens. This book presents findings from several large-scale internationally comparative empirical studies, funded by the Europea...
Article
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For studying populism in a hybrid and high-choice media environment, the comparison of various media channels is especially instructive. We argue that populism-related communication is a combination of key messages (content) and certain stylistic devices (form), and we compare their utilization by a broad range of political actors on Facebook, Twit...
Article
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In journalism, we have observed a multitude of innovative forms in recent years: new forms of presentation (multimedia story-telling, immersive journalism), new ways of involving the audience (participatory journalism), new ways of addressing issues and highlighting solutions (constructive journalism), and new forms of automation (robot journalism)...
Chapter
This chapter provides the theoretical background and context for the chapters in the book. It explains the framework behind the research, the countries involved, how the research was funded, and how work was organized. The studies in the book were conducted in the context of a research network that was funded by the European Union framework program...
Chapter
This book started from several assumptions, the key one being that although the rise of populism can be regarded as an international trend, it may take different forms when investigated in an internationally comparative manner. This book set out to look systematically for both similarities and differences in populist political communication process...
Article
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The aim of this study is to explore favorable opportunity structures for populist communication of politicians in Western democracies. We analyze the content and style of 2,517 statements from 103 politicians from six countries (France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States) who differ in their party affiliation (populist v...
Article
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The success of populist political actors in Western democracies and the dramatization and emotionality of political communication in news media have been the object of several theoretical and empirical studies in the past decade. It has been argued that the mediatization of politics and the convergence of populist and tabloid communication styles f...
Article
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In this article, the introduction to a special International Journal of Press/Politics (IJPP) issue on populism, we articulate and define populism as a communication phenomenon. We provide an overview of populist political communication research and its current foci. We offer a framework for ongoing research and set the boundary conditions for a ne...
Article
The persuasiveness of right-wing populist communication has become a widely discussed topic; it is often assumed that such messages might foster anti-immigrant attitudes among citizens. The present study explores the effects of the different components of right-wing populist communication—anti-immigrant messages, populist content, and populist styl...
Article
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In the wake of the recent successes of populist political actors and discussions about its causes in Europe, the contribution of the media has become an issue of public debate. We identify three roles—as gatekeepers, interpreters, and initiators—the media can assume in their coverage of populist actors, populist ideology, and populist communication...
Presentation
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In the wake of the recent success of populist political actors and causes in Europe, the role of the media in the promotion of populism has become an issue of public debate. We understand populism as a thin ideology that is articulated discursively by political and media actors and focus on two ideational constituents of media populism, namely ‘peo...
Article
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This article introduces a dual perspective to the study of mediatization of politics, a political actor-centric and a media actor-centric perspective. It applies both perspectives to a case study of the 2015 UK General Election campaign. The media actor-centric perspective focuses on push forces of mediatization, manifested in proactive, interventi...
Chapter
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In highly mediatized democracies, political parties and other political actors have to manage the news and adapt to the fact that news media have become largely independent and highly influential. In this chapter, the authors bridge theory and research on strategic party behavior, mediatization, and political public relations to analyze why and how...
Chapter
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In this entry, we discuss the opportunities and challenges of comparative research. We outline the major obstacles in terms of building a comparative theoretical framework, collecting good-quality data, and analyzing those data, and we also explicate the advantages and research questions that can be addressed when taking a comparative approach. Add...
Article
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In previous decades, women in Western countries have gained more influence in various social realms. The percentage of females in higher education, the workforce, boards at publicly traded companies and national parliaments has increased. However, substantial underrepresentation of women in political news has remained. To explain the reasons behind...
Article
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Parties are adapting to the new digital environment in many ways; however, the precise relations between populist communication and social media are still hardly considered. This study compares populist communication strategies on Twitter and Facebook employed by a broad spectrum of left-wing, center, and right-wing political actors in six Western...
Article
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This paper examines diversity in online news with special attention paid to the role of different types of media ownership (meso level) and media systems (macro level). After identifying relevant perspectives and operationalizations of diversity, and discussing the economic implications of ownership and market conditions for diversity, the study te...
Chapter
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This entry discusses the current state of research on news media use from an international comparative perspective. Although mono-national studies on news consumption are easy to obtain anywhere, international comparative research in this area can be considered a real shortcoming. This entry presents an overview of important comparative analyses th...
Article
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During the last decennia media environments and political communication systems have changed fundamentally. These changes have major ramifications for the political information environments and the extent to which they aid people in becoming informed citizens. Against this background, the purpose of this article is to review research on key changes...
Chapter
European media systems have gone through major changes in the last few decades, and these changes have included increased opportunity structures for the dissemination of populist messages. Chapter 12 (‘Switzerland’) rightly states that the disappearance of the traditional party press, increased media ownership concentration, dependence on advertisi...
Article
The Olympic Games are one of the most popular global mega-media events. However, the ways in which the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London were reported varied significantly from one country to another. In order to compare how different countries represented this event, we conducted a qualitative discourse analysis of three days of televisi...
Article
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Media organizations throughout the Western world struggle to adjust their practices to rapidly changing conditions. Initially, online journalism was celebrated for potentially revolutionizing political reporting due to its new technological possibilities: According to this, it is able to (1) increase transparency by providing hyperlink sources, (2)...