Public opinion constitutes one of the cornerstones of democracy. Citizens are assumed to hold preferences for particular polices, know where parties and candidates for office are located on the relevant policy dimensions, and cast their votes accordingly. In other words: Democracy functions best when its citizens are politically informed. In order to express attitudes and act according to their self-interest, citizens need relevant and up to date information about current affairs. In many respects, politi cal relevant information is more widely available now then at any time in history. However, several scholars have questioned the quality and the form of information provided by the news media. A central hypothesis in this project is that media systems mat ter for the information available to the public. How commercial and public broadcasting is organised within a country, or the relative importance of newspapers to television, are all factors that can influence the information provided by the news media, a nd thus the potential effect on the public.
The overall purpose of this project is to study the information given by the news media to the public, and how this information influences public's knowledge and perception of political reality. The proposed p roject will contribute to the research agenda in two areas: (i) We want to investigate how the information given by the news media varies between different media systems and types of media within these systems. Does news content vary between media systems in that the amount of information, the focus of information and the use of news frames varies significantly, or is there no significant difference in the information provided by the different news media in different media systems? (ii) A second aim is to study how between and/or within system variations in news content may influence political knowledge and public perception of political reality.