Value conflicts in a differentiated Europe: The impact of digital media on value Polarisation in Europe

The project will examine the role of digital social & news media in creating political value polarization among citizens & in promoting the rise of populism in Europe. It includes a comparative survey in 6 countries & qualitative analysis of debates conducted through social media. The overall aim of our research is to explain the growing tendency in and across Europe to contest the core values that anchor the European project, and clarify how this new trend relates to digital media usage. At a broader level, ValCon addresses the challenges posed by a deep crisis of liberal democracy in Europe and the world. This crisis, we assume, is a manifestation of increasing conflicts over liberal values, which—we further argue—social media both drives and amplifies.ValCon asks the following core question: To what extent can value conflicts, as expressed in polarized opinions and extremist political views among the public, be attributed to patterns of social media communication? To answer this question, we analyse the dynamics of online value conflicts and how they affect the legitimacy of political order. Is the EU as a community of value drifting apart?
Further information on the ValCon Website:


Values, Social Media, Value Conflicts, Populismus
01.09.2020 - 31.08.2023
ValCon Project Website
Institutionen der EUF
Seminar für Soziologie, Interdisziplinäres Europaforschungszentrum (ICES)


ValCon’s main hypothesis is that one key factor to explain these new observable social cleavages within European societies lies in a mediatized logic of value contestation. To investigate this mediatized logic of value contestation, ValCon designs an innovative research methodology that bridges the fields of media framing and reception studies. This allows us to analyse how values contestation engages political actors, the media, and audiences in new ways. Beyond simply focusing on top-down mobilisation efforts by new populist parties and their impact on political preferences and attitudes, we further explore how broader audiences and the media engage in values contestation through a bottom-up dynamic of political mobilisation.

This mediatisation perspective helps us to understand how value conflicts are not only channelled through the media, but also constituted by the media. Moving beyond a standard country comparison by asking for trans- and crossnational trends in value contestation, the study combines and synthesizes public opinion surveys and media content analysis for three core value conflicts (freedom of speech; independence of judiciary; gender equality) in six EU member states (Denmark, Austria/ France, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Spain).


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Gefördert durch Volkswagen Stiftung