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Political communication in a polarised digital democracy

Recording from AI Lund lunch seminar 23 November 2022

Topic: Political communication in a polarised digital democracy

Speaker: Hanna Bäck, Professor, Political Science, Lund University

Moderator: Kalle Åström, Professor, Mathematical Imaging Group, Lund University - Coordinator AI Lund

When: 23 November at 12.00-13.15

Where: Online

Spoken language: English


Voters in many democratic societies are deeply divided, and it has been suggested that such divisions are identity-based, rather than based in differences in policy opinions. This talk focuses on such identity-based divisions, on so called affective polarization. Affective polarisation among voters comes with bias against and hostility towards other partisan groups, and can cause severe problems for democratic societies, such as intolerance and political violence.
We suggest that political representatives play an important role in strengthening such divides, particularly through invoking threat perceptions. It is therefore important to study the rhetoric of political elites, and to analyze whether they use a particularly “polarizng” language, and how their communication influences the voters. In a newly started project, we ask whether affective polarization arises through a reciprocal relationship between politicians and voters, through their social media interactions.
Questions that are raised in this talk are: Can we make better use of various natural language processing techniques to analyze the social media communication between voters and elites? And how do we understand the role of algorithms in influencing social media communication and what information voters encounter online?