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Topics in Political Science: Media and Politics

Module Code: POU44122

Module Name: Topics: Media and Politics 2019-20

  • ECTS Weighting: 5
  • Semester/Term Taught: Semester 2
  • Contact Hours: 2 hours per week. The module is taught primarily through class discussions, not through lectures
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Dr. Liam Kneafsey.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • Engage with different empirical and theoretical approaches to the role of mass media in society
  • Identify causal mechanisms by which media coverage can (and cannot) shape public opinion on issues such as welfare, immigration, and conflict
  • Compare and analyse the sources of influence on media coverage
  • Evaluate the effects of media framing, agenda-setting and persuasion on citizens and the underlying psychological processes
  • Consider the role of fake news and the information wars in shaping contemporary political discourse

Module learning aims

This module aims to build students’ understanding of the causal mechanisms by which the mass media coverage is shaped and the effects that media content has on political life.


Module content

The mass media have long been considered the ‘fourth estate’ responsible for watching over government and providing the critical information and opinion by which citizens evaluate political issues, actors, and events. For this reason, we will investigate the effects of differential media coverage on public opinion of major contemporary issues namely elections, welfare policy, immigration and terrorism. However, many contend that the media are not simply the means by which information is transferred but constitute political actors themselves. We therefore also explore the causal factors that may shape media coverage and how this varies both across media organisations and across time and space. Finally, technological innovation has revolutionised the mass media landscape. We will engage in depth with key developments such as the rise of soft news, eroding trust in media and journalism, social media and polarisation, and the rise (and meaning) of fake news and the online information wars.

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Recommended reading list

Detailed readings will be given in the module handout. Key readings are:

Bennett, W. Lance. 2012. News: The Politics of Illusion. New York: Pearson Longman.
Ladd, Jonathan M. 2012. Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Stroud, Natalie J. 2011. Niche news: The politics of news choice. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fletcher, R., Cornia, A., Graves, L. and Nielsen, R.K., 2018. Measuring the reach of “fake news” and online disinformation in Europe. Reuters Institute Factsheet.


Assessment details

100% coursework.

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