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Session Overview
RN22_01a_P: Methods and Methodologies in Risk Research
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Jens Oliver Zinn, University of Melbourne
Location: PC.5.29
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 5.

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Studying risk frames in the media. Usefulness and limits of automated content analysis

Maria Grazia Galantino

Unitelma Sapienza, Italy

Media framing, as a process for selecting and emphasising specific aspects of perceived reality and connecting them in a narrative that promotes certain interpretations, is considered essential in shaping political and public discourse as well as the opinion climate. This is particularly relevant for studying risk, as most theories and research show the importance of the media in shaping interpretations and public awareness of risk. In this paper, we suggest that the ‘dictionary approach’ of computer-assisted content analysis can be useful for a systematic empirical analysis of how the term risk is actually used in the media coverage.

Discussing results from an ongoing research that examines risks in the press coverage of migration in Italy (2011-2012 and 2015-2016) and Germany (2015-2016), we aim, firstly, to highlight how “migration risk” (or related terms) is framed in the media discourse. Against this empirical background, we then focus on methodological challenges of automated textual analysis, which can follow different logics and techniques, but always requires a big amount of ‘human intervention’. Dictionary-based content analysis, in particular, assumes that the meaning of a given set of texts can be identified through the presence of particular keywords and words co-occurrences, which can be organised in categories. This leads us back to the conceptualization of risk, which remains the starting and the guiding point of any empirical research. It also reveals the necessity to use a mixed-method approach (quantitative and qualitative), which may overcome the limitations of automated text analysis but remains problematic when using large text corpora.

The Semantics of „Risk“ in International Comparative Social Surveys

Aiste Balzekiene

Kaunas university of technology, Lithuania

International comparative surveys provide rich empirical basis for scientific research in the field of risk and uncertainty studies and testing the models of risk perception determining factors, just to mention few like International social survey programme (ISSP), Eurobarometer or Gallup World Polls. Items in the questionnaires of international comparative surveys include such words as “danger”, “worry”, “threat” that are that are further used quite interchangeably in scientific analysis as measures of risk perception. This may lead to inconsistent conclusions regarding the features of risk perception in cross-national perspective.

There has been little methodological debate in the sociology of Risk and Uncertainty on how the construction of risk perception measurement items in international comparative surveys may affect the research results and interpretations. This presentation will review how risk perception is worded in different questionnaires, what measurement scales of risk perception are used and will illustrate the risk perception cross cultural differences based on the empirical examples from international comparative surveys (mainly ISSP and Eurobarometer). The empirical data will be discussed in the light of theoretical debate about semantics of “risk”.

Who is to blame for the terrorist attack: an experience of using blogs and survey data as sources of responsibility ascriptions

Kirill Gavrilov1,2

1National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Russian Federation; 2Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Federation

The study is based on our previous analysis of blog posts concerning the 2011 Domodedovo airport bombing where we found that individual terrorists are rarely blamed in contrast to other actors (Gavrilov & Tolmach 2014). Then we mostly ignored the research of responsibility ascriptions based on “lay people” explicit judgments (Lickel et al. 2003; Lagnado & Channon 2008). Now our methodological goal is to test the possibility of combining content analysis of blogs and the survey data. The substantial goal is to examine the specificity of responsibility attribution in the situation of a terrorist attack.

Firstly, we conducted a pilot study that included the content analysis of essays written by HSE students about the terrorist attacks in Volgograd in December 2013 (n = 26) using the methodology of the Domodedovo study. We also made an online survey of these students with questions regarding the level of responsibility of different actors involved in the terrorist attacks. The result was that almost all the actors had high blame ratings, even the actors not mentioned in the essays.

Secondly, we conducted a study of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January 2015. Apart from essays and online survey with students (n = 80) we also made a content analysis of blog posts (n=300). The analysis showed a significant difference in the attributions of blame depending on the data source: individual terrorists were not blamed according to data obtained via unobtrusive methods, but the survey data suggest the highest levels of their responsibility.

Are political representatives more risk-loving than the electorate? Evidence from the German Federal and State Parliaments

Christian von Scheve1,3, Moritz Heß2, Jürgen Schupp3,1, Aiko Wagner4, Gert G. Wagner3

1Freie Universität Berlin, Germany; 2Technical University Dortmund; 3German Institute for Economic Research (DIW); 4Berlin Social Science Center (WZB)

Political representatives frequently make decisions under risk and uncertainty that not only yield domestic but also global consequences. Although decision-making is crucial to politics, little is known about the representation of traits that systematically influence decision-making, in particular the risk propensity of voters and politicians. Given that in representative democracies, few political elites make decisions that have consequences for most members of society, it is an interesting question whether political representatives do resemble their constituents regarding their risk propensity. Representing constituents is critical for the functioning of democratic political systems, but voters might be much less or substantially more risk seeking than their political representatives. This presentation reports results from a study that investigated the degree to which political representatives’ risk propensity resembles their constituents’ risk propensity. Using representative samples of the German Federal Parliament, four German State Parliaments, and the general population of Germany, we show that political representatives are significantly more risk loving than the average citizen in all eight domains of risk-taking we assessed and in a hypothetical choice experiment – even when using conservative matching procedures and politically interested citizens as the comparison group. We discuss the results in light of two possibly contrasting sociological interpretations of the origins of these differences: theories of occupational selection and theories of risk as culture.

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