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Course 2021-2022 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Go to class group/s: 23

BIG (6 credits - II sem. - OB  |  3 credits SPS/04  |  3 credits SPS/08)

Classes: 23 (II sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Suggested background knowledge


Mission & Content Summary

The aim of the course is to examine how the mass media and political elites structure public opinion and political behavior, both from a theoretical and an empirical perspective. While the majority of the course focuses on advanced industrial democracies, specific attention is given to media, elite and mass linkages in the developing world. Topics such as the persuasive effects of the media, strategic agenda setting of political elites and electoral campaigning are covered from a multidisciplinary approach, covering work from economics, political science and communication science. We devote special attention to social media and put social media effects in a historical context.


The course introduces students to a basic toolkit used by researchers to understand the relationship between the media, strategic political elites and the public. The course will cover the following topics:


·      An historical and comparative look at political communication.

·      Media coverage and bias.

·      Political elites and electoral campaigns.

·      The persuasion effects of the media: agenda-setting, framing and priming.

·      Empirical analysis of media effects.

·      The use of social media in politics.


As might be expected for topics as broad and complex as these, while there is much we currently know, many debates are still open. The objective of this course is to weigh the available evidence – both descriptive and causal – to arrive at the fullest possible understanding of key themes within media and politics today.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)
At the end of the course student will be able to...


·      the key theories trying to understand and explain the persuasion effects of the media, such as agenda-setting, framing and priming;

·      different media regimes;

·      the historical and comparative theory and research on political communication.

·      differences between the developed and developing world when it comes to media effects.

At the end of the course student will be able to...


·      use the theoretical and empirical insights presented during the course to assess and interpret the behavior of citizens, politicians and media actors;

·      use the theoretical and empirical insights presented during the course to mechanisms through which media, elites and mass linkages operate or not.

·      critically reflect on empirical insights presented during the course understand the role that the media plays in politics.

Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Individual assignments

Lectures will be structured according to the standard format: the instructor will present and elaborate on the material contained in the required readings, which the students will have read before class, so as to enhance in-class discussions and students’ participation.


On specialized topics, guest speaker's talks will provide more background and insight.


In order to facilitate deeper understanding of the lecture materials, students will prepare a case study as an individual assignment.


Some of the assigned readings will feature a high degree of knowledge and sophistication in terms of theories of politics and methods of analysis. Therefore, students’ attendance is strongly recommended. Although no formal prerequisites are required, the lectures will provide students some background that will help them gain a better understanding of the readings.


The attendance will be measured by the specific app available to all students. To qualify as an attending student and be allowed to take the exam, an attendance rate equal to or higher than 75% must be reported.

Assessment methods
  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  •   x  
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  •   x  
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)
  •   x  

    With the purpose of measuring the acquisition of the above-mentioned learning outcomes, the student assessment is based on two final written exams. The midterm accounts for 30 per cent of the mark and the final exam for 70 per cent of the final grade. The exam is based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions. Multiple choice questions and open-ended questions will be designed to test the students’ knowledge of the key theories of media effects in politics.



    Written general exam, (100 % of the finale grade) based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions, which aims to assess the student’s ability to describe the main theoretical and empirical findings contained in the readings covered over the course of the semester.

    Teaching materials

    The required readings for this course will be scientific articles and book chapters that represent the key and/or state of the art contributions to the different topics analyzed. A complete list of the required and suggested reading will be provided at the beginning of the course and will be available on Blackboard.

    Last change 15/12/2021 17:51