Publications

Below is a selection of my publications. For a full list, please refer to my C.V.

Books

Covering Muslims

We present the first systematic, large-scale analysis of American newspaper coverage of Muslims. By comparing it over time with reporting on other groups and issues as well as coverage of the subject in other countries, we demonstrate conclusively how negative American newspapers have been in their treatment of Muslims across the two-decade period between 1996 and 2016, both in an absolute sense and compared to a range of other groups. The same pattern holds in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the UK. While 9/11 did not make coverage more negative in the long run, it did dramatically increase the prevalence of references to terrorism and extremism.

Ideas, Interests and Foreign Aid

Why do countries give foreign aid? Although many countries have official development assistance programs, this book argues that no two of them see the purpose of these programs in the same way. Moreover, the way countries frame that purpose has shaped aid policy choices past and present. Instead, analyzing half a century of legislative debates on aid in these four countries, this book presents a unique picture both of cross-national and over time patterns in the salience of different aid frames and of varying aid programs that resulted.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Chronic frames of social inequality

How social inequality is described—as advantage or disadvantage—critically shapes individuals’ responses to it. As such, it is important to document how people, in fact, choose to describe inequality. Using multiple methods and research contexts, we find that race and gender inequalities are chronically described as subordinate groups’ disadvantages, whereas wealth inequality is chronically described using no frame or as the dominant group’s advantage. Moreover, these differences in chronic frames are related to the perceived legitimacy of the inequality domain. The presence of such chronic frames and their association with perceived legitimacy may be mechanisms underlying the systematic inattention to White individuals’ and men’s advantages, and the disadvantages of the working class.

Assessing the Effect of Media Tone on Attitudes toward Muslims

Does the tone of media coverage directly affect public attitudes? We use an online between-subjects experiment to show that exposure to articles of quantifiably different valences about Muslims or Catholics affects reported attitudes toward each of those groups. We also identify anxiety as a key mediator between exposure to articles of different valences and attitudes about each group. Our findings suggest that articles of a particular tone can influence views of social groups.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

We examine how the US print media portray Latinos and Hispanics, drawing on computer-assisted coding of 185,244 articles in 17 American newspapers between 1996 and 2016. We explore the prevalence of themes of criminality, immigration, illegal immigration, and economic threats. Among these themes, we find that criminality and illegal immigration are associated with the greatest degree of negativity. Yet, the overall tone of articles is neutral rather than negative. Using collocation analysis, we examine the topics associated with positivity within Latinx articles. Stories relating to Latinx achievement and culture have the strongest positive associations with the tone of newspaper coverage. Our research thus identifies the themes associated with both negativity and positivity, and shows that coverage of Latinx has been relatively neutral rather than predominantly negative.

Atheism in US and UK Newspapers

We analyze coverage of atheism and atheists in American and British newspapers using computational text analysis techniques, including sentiment analysis and topic modeling. In particular, we show that greater negativity is associated with atheism as a concept than with atheists as individuals. Our findings add a new dimension to scholarship on differences between individual-targeted and group-targeted tolerance in public attitudes, establishing for the first time that media coverage mirrors such differences.

Media portrayals of Muslims

Are Muslims portrayed more negatively than other religious groups? If so, what factors are associated with this negativity? We apply computer-assisted, lexicon-based coding to over 850,000 articles that mention Muslims, Hindus, Jews, or Catholics in 17 national and regional US newspapers over the 20-year period of 1996– 2015 and compare them to a representative baseline of articles. We show that the average tone of articles about Muslims is considerably more negative than both this baseline and compared to articles about the other groups. The negative tone is most strongly associated with stories about extremism and events in foreign settings. However, even controlling for a wide range of factors does not eliminate the negativity in stories mentioning Muslims. We discuss the implications of these findings for media objectivity and for public attitudes and policy preferences with respect to Muslims and other social groups.

Afro-pessimist or Africa Rising?

Is media coverage of Africa systematically negative or increasingly positive? Several scholars have argued that too little empirical evidence exists to address the debate between “Afro-pessimist” and “Africa Rising” perspectives. We contribute to this discussion by analyzing 139,012 articles drawn from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today over the 25-year period between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 2018. We find modest support for the Afro-pessimist viewpoint: Articles mentioning Africa are negative on average, are even more negative during peak periods of coverage, and have not become more positive over time. In addition, we examine the thematic coverage most strongly associated with negativity and positivity. Stories that reference conflict, government, and specific African countries account for a significant portion of the negativity in our corpus. Conversely, stories related to culture and education constitute a subset of positive articles. Overall, our analysis not only sheds light on an ongoing debate about the tone of coverage of Africa, it also provides a better understanding of prevalent negative and positive thematic coverage in four major US newspapers.

Media coverage of Muslim devotion

Scholars have identified Muslims’ religiosity and faith practices, often believed to be more intense than those of other religious groups, as a point of friction in liberal democracies. We use computer-assisted methods of lexical sentiment analysis and collocation analysis to assess more than 800,000 articles between 1996 and 2016 in a range of British, American, Canadian, and Australian newspapers. We couple this approach with human coding of 100 randomly selected articles to investigate the tone of devotion-related themes when linked to Islam and Muslims. We show that articles touching on devotion are not as negative as articles about other aspects of Islam—and indeed that they are not negative at all, on average, when focused on a key subset of devotion-related articles. We thus offer a new perspective on the perception of Islamic religiosity in Western societies. Our findings also suggest that if newspapers strive to provide a more balanced portrayal of Muslims and Islam within their pages, they may seek opportunities to include more frequent mentions of Muslim devotion.

Fifty Years of Public (Dis)Satisfaction with European Governance

Since its beginnings in the 1950s, the policymaking scope and authority of the European Union have dramatically expanded across a wide range of issue areas. Yet much remains unknown about the interaction between public preferences for EU-level governance, changes in such governance and overall support for European integration. This article analyses surveys ranging from 1962 to 2010 to show that while support for integration in different policy areas has fluctuated over time, it has been surprisingly stable overall; moreover, the relative preference ordering across issue areas has been even more consistent. In addition, this consistency is not affected by changes in Europeanization, nor do such changes appear to be driven by the relative strength of preferences. Finally, issue-specific support for EU-level governance has an impact on overall EU support that becomes stronger as Europeanization in that issue area increases, an effect that increases further with greater political knowledge. These findings call into question understandings of rising Euroscepticism as a reaction to Europeanization taking place primarily in areas where publics oppose it. In addition, they indicate that public awareness of European integration is far greater than political knowledge tests appear to indicate.

Enlargement and the anticipatory deepening of European integration.

Since its beginnings in the 1950s, the policymaking scope and authority of the European Union have dramatically expanded across a wide range of issue areas. Yet much remains unknown about the interaction between public preferences for EU-level governance, changes in such governance and overall support for European integration. This article analyses surveys ranging from 1962 to 2010 to show that while support for integration in different policy areas has fluctuated over time, it has been surprisingly stable overall; moreover, the relative preference ordering across issue areas has been even more consistent. In addition, this consistency is not affected by changes in Europeanization, nor do such changes appear to be driven by the relative strength of preferences. Finally, issue-specific support for EU-level governance has an impact on overall EU support that becomes stronger as Europeanization in that issue area increases, an effect that increases further with greater political knowledge. These findings call into question understandings of rising Euroscepticism as a reaction to Europeanization taking place primarily in areas where publics oppose it. In addition, they indicate that public awareness of European integration is far greater than political knowledge tests appear to indicate.

Publications (Other)

What did 9/11 mean for U.S. media coverage of Muslims and Islam?

In this article, we focus on broad patterns and trends in the coverage of Muslims to better understand the effect of 9/11. We show that key changes in the content of coverage were both nearly instantaneous and persistent. In particular, 9/11 dramatically tightened the connection in US newspaper reporting between Muslims, on the one hand, and terrorism and extremism, on the other hand. Moreover, the attacks also brought about an enduring increase in the volume of newspaper articles mentioning Muslims and Islam. These trends are evident not just in leading national titles such as the Times and the Post, but also across a range of more locally focused newspapers, including tabloids. On the other hand, although coverage also became more negative in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, this negative shock was comparatively short-lived, and the average tone of articles about Muslims and Islam had returned to pre-9/11 levels by the end of 2001. Sadly, those pre-9/11 levels were already systematically far more negative than for other minority groups in the United States.