University of Wisconsin–Madison

SJMC Awarded $411,000 Through UW2020 Grant for Research

School of Journalism and Mass Communication professors Lew Friedland and Dhavan Shah, associate professor Michael Wagner and Boston College professor Christopher Wells and fellow UW-Madison researchers received an award of over $400,000 through the UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative competition on Monday for their research “Communication Ecologies, Political Contention, and Democratic Crisis.”

The UW2020 initiative aims to stimulate high-impact, groundbreaking research over the next five years. “Communication Ecologies, Political Contention, and Democratic Crisis” was chosen to receive funding from over 100 campus-wide proposals.

This research explores the extreme polarization in Wisconsin political media. The team has analyzed social media, including millions of tweets, and other qualitative data dating back to 2010 in order to examine the media polarization and distribution of both true and false information in Wisconsin elections.

Moving forward, they plan to look into “echo chambers” and citizens’ motivations to amplify partisan messages of party leaders. They will also integrate their qualitative findings with tracking of talk radio and political advertisements to reconstruct the future political and communication ecology of Wisconsin.

The research team was awarded an additional $100,000 from the Hewlett Foundation and $12,000 from UW’s Tommy Thompson Center on Public Leadership.