Spiral of silence networked: The Process of Public Opinion Formation from a Meso-Perspective.

The project investigates the influence of personal and media information sources in individual communication networks on the perception of public opinion and on the formation of opinions on current topics. The focus is on the question of how people deal with contradictions in digital environments, for example, with the fact that contributions in mass media contradict user-generated contributions on digital platforms and that both are forwarded and commented on via social media by friends or colleagues who again have a different view.

To illustrate with an example: How do people process a “Tagesthemen” post arguing for a Corona-conditioned curfew when this post reaches them via the tweet of a colleague who in turn is critical of curfews? What is the impact of user comments on curfew by Facebook friends, and how do personal conversations about it affect one’s opinion?

The project is a cooperation with Prof. Dr. Helmut Scherer from the IJK in Hannover and takes place at two locations. It builds on the theory of the silence spiral and other approaches to the influence of conformity. The empirical study includes surveys of an online panel and online diary studies of personal and media sources of information.

The Düsseldorf subproject is funded by the German Research Foundation with about 200.000€ for 3 years.