Publications in 2018

Hellmeier, Sebastian, Nils B. Weidmann and Espen Geelmuyden Rød. "In the Spotlight: Analyzing Sequential Attention Effects in Protest Reporting”

Political Communication 35(4)

During waves of contention, international media attention can be of crucial importance for activists and protest participants. However, media attention is a scarce resource and the competition over news coverage is high. While some emphasize the agenda-setting power of news outlets and argue that receiving coverage is determined by factors outside the protest movement, others suggest a dynamic relationship between media attention and activism where social movement organizations are assumed to have some agency to make it to the news. In this paper, we contribute to the latter and analyze how protest can endogenously trigger more coverage. Building on insights from communication science, we argue that widely covered protests attract media attention and temporarily lower the selection threshold for subsequent incidents. Using fine-grained data on anti-regime protest in all authoritarian countries between 2003 and 2012, we find robust empirical evidence for this hypothesis. We also show that this effect becomes weaker and eventually disappears with increasing spatial and temporal distance from a highly salient event. These findings are important for research in contentious politics, since they allows us to gauge the extent to which protest activity on the ground may under certain circumstances be over-reported in the media. 

Hellmeier, Sebastian and Johannes Vüllers. "Neue Entwicklungen und Herausforderungen bei der Kodierung von Ereignisdatensätzen”

Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen 25(1)

Kodierungsentscheidungen spielen eine zentrale Rolle bei der Erstellung quantitativer Datensätze. Der technische Fortschritt und die zunehmende Disaggregation der Daten bringen neue Herausforderungen für den Kodierungsprozess und die Konzeptformierung mit sich. In diesem Beitrag diskutieren wir, welche Chancen und Risiken sich aus der gestiegenen Verfügbarkeit von Daten ergeben, und wie wir mit einem zu viel und zu wenig an Informationen im Kodierungsprozess umgehen können. Aus unserer Sicht können technische Hilfsmittel derzeit vor allem unterstützend zur menschlichen Kodierung eingesetzt werden. Darüber hinaus betonen wir die Notwendigkeit eines transparenten Umgangs mit konzeptionell und empirisch unklaren Fällen. 

Nisser, Annerose and Nils B. Weidmann. "Online Ethnic Segregation in a Post-Conflict Setting"

European Journal of Communication 33(5) 

Existing research has shown that online networks are often segregated along identity lines, such as political ideology or religious views. Although online segregation should be specifically detrimental when appearing between ethnic groups in a post-conflict setting, to date we have no systematic evidence on the level of online ethnic segregation. To close this gap, the present study examines online ethnic segregation in a large ethnically mixed blogger network in a post-conflict society, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since politics has been found to enhance ethnic divides in the offline world, we additionally examine whether segregation is higher for bloggers engaging with political topics. Using large-scale webscraping, automated text analysis and Monte Carlo simulation, we find evidence for pronounced ethnic divisions. Furthermore, we find that political bloggers tend to have more ethnically segregated networks. The findings show that a broad public exchange transcending ethnic categories remains limited in the online context we study, and that those who dominate the online political debate tend to be those who in their social interactions put even more weight on ethnic categories than the average. 

Crabtree, Charles and Nils B. Weidmann. "Internet Service Provision under Authoritarian Rule: A Field Experiment in Belarus"


Do authoritarian regimes strategically limit the opposition’s Internet access? By constricting Internet access to potential challengers, governments can reduce the need to censor (since anti-regime content would be less likely to be produced and read) and also the need for large infrastructure shutdowns (which may harm the government). Cross-national work shows that political exclusion is associated with significantly lower rates of connectivity for the affected groups, but cannot tell us whether this pattern is because governments strategically limiting Internet access of the political opposition. We test this mechanism with a field experiment in Belarus. We email support centers of the national telecommunications provider and vary partisan cues in our emails. In line with the strategic exclusion mechanism, we find a tendency that opposition support leads to lower response rates for Internet-related service requests. Due to the low response rate, however, our findings largely fail to reach conventional levels of significance.

Weidmann, Nils B., Sabine Otto and Lukas Kawerau. "The Use of Positive Words in Political Science Language" 

PS: Political Science & Politics 51(3) 

Political science prides itself on objective and methodologically rigorous research. This should be reflected in a clear and concise writing style that convinces readers by the content of research, and not by the language that is used to report about it. In this short note, we demonstrate that is true only to a limited extent. We show that, similar to recent findings from natural science research, the frequency of positive words that political scientists use to describe their research has increased markedly over the last several decades. At the same time, however, the magnitude of this increase is much less pronounced. The article discusses and analyzes different potential explanations for this trend. We suspect that it can at least partly be attributed to changing norms in the discipline, where research framed in a positive way is more likely to be published.