| Northwestern University

Political Communication

Campaigns in a New Media Age

The Strategic Collection and Use of Public Opinion Information

Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Support for Energy Policy

Current Research

Political Communication Effects

Druckman has various projects that explore how mass communications influences citizens' opinions. Much of this work focuses on “elite-issue framing.” Framing occurs when in the course of describing an issue or event, a speaker's emphasis on a subset of potentially relevant considerations causes individuals to focus on these considerations when constructing their opinions. For example, if a speaker describes a hate-group rally in terms of free speech, then the audience will subsequently base their opinions about the rally on free speech considerations and support the right to rally. In contrast, if the speaker uses a public safety frame, the audience will base their opinions on public safety considerations and oppose the rally. With various colleagues, Druckman is exploring how competition between frames influences opinions, how people's choice of information outlets affects framing effects, how variations in motivation influence framing effects, and how elite polarization affects the impact of communications. Most of this work is experimental.

Campaigns in a New Media Age: How Candidates Use the World Wide Web to Win Elections

Martin Kifer, Michael Parkin, and Druckman are studying the impact of the Internet on electoral politics. Specifically, they have developed a theoretical framework for studying politicians' campaigns on the Web that accounts for political strategic aspects of Web-based campaigns and novel technical elements. They use the framework to guide a content analysis of over 1000 candidates Web sites over five election cycles. They complement these data with information on candidate and district characteristics to study a number of dynamics including how candidates' campaign on the Web, how Web campaign strategies differ from other types of media campaigning, why candidates Web sites differ from one another, how campaign Web sites have changed over time, and what effect Web campaigns might have in the future. They also have explored the websites of Members of Congress, and studied the effects of websites on voters' opinions (using experiments). At present data from three election studies is presently available. More data will be available in the near future.
Data from this project

When and How Political Parties Influence Public Opinion Formation

Thomas Leeper, Rune Slothuus, and Druckman are studying when and how parties affect public opinions. Indeed, one of the most important influences on citizens’ opinions is the positions that political parties take on policy issues. Yet, we have limited knowledge of how citizens use parties to form opinions, and the conditions under which they use parties in different ways. We aim to advance this longstanding debate with a novel theoretical model that reconciles alternative conceptions of party influence and specifies under what conditions citizens will use parties in what ways. We test our model in survey experiments embedded in representative surveys in the US and Denmark. In related work, Matt Levendusky and Druckman are studying the impact of partisan media on public opinion.

Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Support for Energy Policy

Despite an abundance of rhetoric on energy policy from both political parties, critics maintain that the U.S. lacks a national energy strategy. Part of developing such a strategy lies in understanding public attitudes about different sources of energy, whether those opinions change as the public becomes more informed about energy alternatives, what types of energy policies the public is willing to support, and what the public is willing to do as far as making lifestyle choices to meet the long-term energy demands of our society. Along with Fay Cook and Toby Bolsen, Druckman is working on a project to forward just this understanding by using public opinion survey data to examine Americans' changing knowledge and attitudes about traditional energy sources, alternative sources of energy, and lifestyle choices that affect energy production and consumption. Part of this project also involves surveys of policy-makers and scientists.