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The public attribution of responsibility: an international comparison


Hasler, K; Greuter, N (2010). The public attribution of responsibility: an international comparison. In: The Sixth Annual Graduate Conference in Political Science, The Hebrew University Mount Scopus Campus Jerusalem, 15 December 2010 - 17 December 2010, 1-16.

Abstract

The presentation of socially relevant events in the mass media can have a substantial impact on the public attribution of responsibility (Iyengar 1991). The mass media do not only monitor political processes, they also construct a political problem in a certain way that affects the citizens’ perception of who is to blame and who should be hold accountable.
Further, the process of responsibility attribution, this is “who is responsible for what?” influences the image, the competences and the legitimacy of political authorities (Gerhards et al. 2007). Thus, by detecting reasons for the perception of a political problem, the media influences the political problem-solving process and the scope of problem solving strategies, which is crucial for the conditions of citizen's support. In other words, we consider the attribution of responsibility to be a pre-condition for framing effects (Entman 2004).
The paper focuses on developing a content-analysis instrument according to Gerhards et al. (2007), in order to capture the elusive concept of the political public sphere. Based on a systematic analysis of different newspapers, we compare across countries (Israel, The United States, Germany and Switzerland) and across time (May 2010-September 2010) who is held responsible for the incident on the aid flotilla in May 2010 and who is asked to take action.
The paper concludes that even though the media takes an essential part in constructing the public sphere, the process of responsibility attribution is driven by the political logic and not the one of the media. The growing intrusion of the media logic as an institutional rule that defines the appropriate behaviour of political actors must not be overestimated and depends to a certain extent on the institutional landscape. The prevailing state monopoly on relevant information and the lack of publicity of actors on the non-national level remains a stumbling block for the media as a fourth estate.

The presentation of socially relevant events in the mass media can have a substantial impact on the public attribution of responsibility (Iyengar 1991). The mass media do not only monitor political processes, they also construct a political problem in a certain way that affects the citizens’ perception of who is to blame and who should be hold accountable.
Further, the process of responsibility attribution, this is “who is responsible for what?” influences the image, the competences and the legitimacy of political authorities (Gerhards et al. 2007). Thus, by detecting reasons for the perception of a political problem, the media influences the political problem-solving process and the scope of problem solving strategies, which is crucial for the conditions of citizen's support. In other words, we consider the attribution of responsibility to be a pre-condition for framing effects (Entman 2004).
The paper focuses on developing a content-analysis instrument according to Gerhards et al. (2007), in order to capture the elusive concept of the political public sphere. Based on a systematic analysis of different newspapers, we compare across countries (Israel, The United States, Germany and Switzerland) and across time (May 2010-September 2010) who is held responsible for the incident on the aid flotilla in May 2010 and who is asked to take action.
The paper concludes that even though the media takes an essential part in constructing the public sphere, the process of responsibility attribution is driven by the political logic and not the one of the media. The growing intrusion of the media logic as an institutional rule that defines the appropriate behaviour of political actors must not be overestimated and depends to a certain extent on the institutional landscape. The prevailing state monopoly on relevant information and the lack of publicity of actors on the non-national level remains a stumbling block for the media as a fourth estate.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper), refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Language:English
Event End Date:17 December 2010
Deposited On:19 Jan 2011 08:49
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:34
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-42028

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