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Simulating the Gaps: Using Agent-Based Models to Fathom Opinion Dynamics in Panel Studies

Fri, May 25, 9:30 to 10:45, Hilton Prague, Floor: LL, Vienna


In empirical linkage analyses, panel surveys are linked to parallel media content analyses to explain opinion dynamics by media effects on individuals. In these analyses, however, media content is temporally aggregated and complex short-term reactions to media and the social environment are not taken into account. In this study, we perform a linkage analysis by means of agent based modeling, using the respondents of a three-wave panel survey during a Swiss referendum campaign as agents with their place of living and the content of their individually used media outlets as model topology. Applying rules from social impact theory (Latané, 1981) and the spiral of silence (Noelle-Neumann, 1974), we find that both the local opinion climate and media bias exert an influence on respondents’ opinions toward the referendum. While social influence is stronger between the first and second panel wave, it is outweighed by media influence between the second and third wave.