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Research

Personalisation of Politics between Television and the Internet

Over the last decades, the “personalisation of politics” has turned into one of the defining elements of the democratic process. However, the common wisdom that sees popular political leaders as a fundamental electoral asset for their own parties finds only limited support in the scant voting literature. So far, comparative electoral research has proven reluctant in systematically addressing the impact of leaders on voting across time and space. Equally crucial aspects such as the role played by television exposure as a driver of personalisation in voting behaviour, and the relationship between the rise of Internet-based political communication and the personalisation trend have so far been under-researched.

The major aim of this project is to empirically assess the extent to which political leaders have come to affect voters’ choice, as well as the role played by the media in driving this development across time. This project substantially extends the existing state-of-the-art on personalisation of politics and electoral behaviour through its innovative methodological approach and its wider geographical/longitudinal scope. It involves the longitudinal harmonisation and analysis of over a hundred existing cross-sectional datasets from European countries (1960-2015). Analysis of available panel data will complement the findings of the longitudinal analysis by focusing more in depth on causal dynamics. With regard to the research environment in which to place the study, the current state of the literature suggests that European democracies represent the locus where more research is in need. European democracies highlight many of the crucial variations in the structure of democratic politics and thus provide the ideal framework for such a thoroughly comparative analysis. The European-wide dimension of the study will allow for an extensive testing of the institutional, contextual and technological factors mediating leader effects across time and space.

This research project is funded by an AMBIZIONE Grant of the Swiss National Science Foundation (2017-2019).