There is an app for that - Development and validation of a smartphone-based measurement of media exposure to political information

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The distribution of smartphones in western societies nowadays reached a critical mass with two-thirds of the populations of countries like Denmark, Sweden, the UK or Australia owning a smartphone (Our Mobile Planet, 2013). The current study will gain new insights in how valid and manifold smartphones can be used in public opinion research by conducting a nationwide, representative five wave online panel-study in Denmark, including innovative smartphone-based survey elements. The study contributes to the question how media use affects the public engagement and political participation of the citizen and focuses on the Danish case. First results are available at the end of 2014. In todays’ high choice media environment (Prior, 2007), with innumerable short-term exposures (e.g. on social media), it is increasingly difficult to measure exposure to specific content and trace it back to attitudinal changes or actions of an individual. This study assesses citizens’ exposure to political information across different media and connects it with their public engagement and political participation. The high demands on respondents’ memory as well as the restrictiveness to only a few media outlets and platforms in todays’ fragmented media environment are two of the main points, prior research has criticized (Prior, 2009; Dilliplane, Goldman & Mutz, 2013). To address these criticisms, the current study will use a smartphone-based Media & Participation Diary that taps the political information exposure of the citizens with a new, simple three-step measurement and thereby directly connecting it to the participatory behavior of the citizens. The exposure measurement with the app on a daily basis reduces the demands on respondents’ memory and has the unique opportunity to measure the content-related short-term exposure to political information on social media. This innovative approach results in a highly detailed measurement with new quality. Research has shown that the use of a smartphone-based app works well when it comes to the frequent measurement of activities, such as media use (Sonck & Fernee, 2013). An all-time accessibility of the respondents, a less invasive mode of surveying, a higher frequency in measurement time points and sudden adjustments to the measurement can result in higher response rates, more detailed respectively higher data quality and more timely responses, e.g. in the case of breaking news. The need for an easily accessible and time sensitive mode of survey, representativeness of the sample respectively coverage bias and privacy as well as data security issues, on the contrary, are serious challenges. The current study tries to address the challenges but also benefits from the advantages. It contributes to current research by comparing the exposure measured between the mobile as well as the representative survey. This comparison is highly needed to make statements about the validity of the smartphone measurements. Additionally the study reveals insights about the possibility to directly connect stimulus (media use) and response (participation).
Original languageEnglish
Publication date7. Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 7. Mar 2015
Event2015 WAPOR Regional Conference: Innovation in Public Opinion Research - Doha, Qatar
Duration: 7. Mar 20159. Mar 2015


Conference2015 WAPOR Regional Conference


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