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Political Researchers to Study How Ideas Become ‘Framed’ for Debate

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Who decides how political ideas are ‘framed,’ and how are these frames shared with others?

A new international three-year project led by Dr Özlem Atikcan of Warwick’s Department of Politics and International Studies, Professor Anna Holzscheiter of Germany’s TU Dresden, and Professor Jean- Frédéric Morin of Canada’s Université Laval aims to find out.

Political issues are rarely presented objectively. Instead, they are ‘framed’, that is, certain aspects highlighted and others de-emphasised, in order to influence how voters think about the issue. Existing research has focused on what makes a frame persuasive. This new study will take a step back and explore where frames come from, who chooses them, and how they circulate among political actors.

Dr Atikcan, project leader in the UK, said: ‘Framing has long been a core concept in many academic fields, but frames have been seen as “things” and not “processes”‘.

The ambitious project – Frames in Production: Actors, Networks, Diffusion (FRAMENET) – will look at the emergence of frames in five areas of political debate: international trade, immigration, the environment, global health and transparency. This will enable the study to make comparisons between countries and themes.

Through the creation of a new database and interviews with key political actors in each debate, the project will explore why actors choose the political arguments they use, and what factors influence their choices.

‘By studying how the content of frames becomes defined, and the factors that influence that process, we hope to offer a new research agenda on framing,’ noted Professor Morin, project lead in Canada.

The team includes Dr Atikcan from the University of Warwick, Professor Philip Leifeld from the University of Essex and Dr Kerem Öge from Aston University in the UK, Professor Anna Holzscheiter from the Technical University of Dresden, Professor Jean Frédéric Morin and Dr Yannick Dufresne from Laval University in Canada and Dr Clara Brandi from the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut fur Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).

The academic team will work closely throughout the project with the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut fur Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), one of the leading think tanks for global development policy. DIE will support the project team in sharing their findings with stakeholders in the worldwide policy community.

Prof. Holzscheiter, project lead in Germany, emphasised: ‘Our results will help political actors, NGOs, campaigners and the public better understand the processes through which they are being influenced.’

The project is funded jointly by UKRI in the UK, DFG in Germany, and SSHRC in Canada. The total budget including all three countries is around £1,000,000.

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