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Ongoing project

Communication Power of Politicians in a Digital Age (CEPOL)

Consequences for Participation and Democracy.

Project period March 2018 - December 2021
Project employer Norges forskningsråd
Project nr. 10271
Project leader Kari Steen-Johnsen
bilde av politikere og en sky med sosiale medier


Project Background

Digitalization challenges the traditional role of mass media as gatekeepers and distributors of political information in the public sphere. Thus new opportunities open up for politicians to set the agenda and communicate with voters. In the current political climate, this development has caused international concern, with the Brexit vote and the Twitter communication of Donald Trump as imminent cases.

Project Aim

The CEPOL project studies the implications of this development for representative, deliberative and participatory democracy by studying politicians’ agenda setting and framing powers vis-a-vis citizens, and relates this to citizens’ behaviour in the digital political communication system.

Project Approach

On the one hand, digitalization can be positive for representative democracy, by enabling effective dissemination of political information and direct communication between politicians and citizens. On the other, it can give politicians excessive power vis-à-vis their voters. For deliberative democracy a main question is whether increased media power of politicians leads to an open and pluralistic public sphere, or whether it leads to polarization and the formation of echo chambers and ideological clusters. For participative democracy, a core issue is whether digitalization leads to more civic and political participation, across social groups, and what role political information emanating from politicians play in this context.

CEPOL employs survey data, media content data, and social media data to examine:

  1. The structure of Norwegian politicians’ Twitter audiences
  2. The agenda-setting and framing power of politicians in social media
  3. Changes in political media use and consequences for democratic participation among Norwegian citizens from 2011 to 2018

CEPOL finally uses findings from the empirical studies as basis for a normative discussion of the implications of the new media power of politicians to representative, deliberative and participatory democracy.


ParticipantDegree PhoneE-mail
Audun Beyer Senior Research Fellow PhD +47 402 23 626
Bernard Enjolras Research Professor, Director Center for research on civil society and voluntary sector PhD +47 976 89 237
Rune Karlsen Research Professor (20% position) PhD
Kari Steen-Johnsen Research Director, Politics, democracy, civil society PhD +47 906 49 417
Cristian Vaccari (University of Loughborough, UK)
Andrew Salway (Uni Research Computing)


  • Bernard Enjolras; Kari Steen-Johnsen & Audun Beyer (2018). Forholdet mellom online- og offline-deltakelse i frivillige organisasjoner, In Bernard Enjolras & Ivar Eimhjellen (ed.),  Fra kollektiv til konnektiv handling? Nye former for samfunnsengasjement og kollektiv handling i Norge.  Cappelen Damm Akademisk.  ISBN 9788202590420.  Kapittel 4.  s 101 - 126

View all works in Cristin

  • Kari Steen-Johnsen (2019). Personvern, politikermakt og demokrati - innlegg i paneldebatt.
  • Kari Steen-Johnsen (2019). Polarisering, fragmentering og ekkokamre.
  • Kari Steen-Johnsen; Shelley Boulianne; Karolina Koc-Michalska & Bruce Bimber (2019). Digital media, networks, and offline volunteering: A comparative study.
  •  (2019). Mener mediene har «berøringsangst»: – Vi skal høre på folk når de er forbannet.
  •  (2019). Trenger kvinner beskyttelse?.
  •  (2019). Facebook stopper vaksinemotstandere.
  • Kari Steen-Johnsen (2018). Media, misinformation and polarization.
  •  (2018). Folkemassene alene får ikke politikerne til å handle.

View all works in Cristin

Tags: Elections and Democracy, Civil Society, Digitalization
Published July 9, 2018 1:11 PM - Last modified July 9, 2018 1:16 PM