Here is a selection of publications, including undergraduate honors theses, that have come out of the STAIR Lab.


Covering Muslims

We present the first systematic, large-scale analysis of American newspaper coverage of Muslims. By comparing it over time with reporting on other groups and issues as well as coverage of the subject in other countries, we demonstrate conclusively how negative American newspapers have been in their treatment of Muslims across the two-decade period between 1996 and 2016, both in an absolute sense and compared to a range of other groups. The same pattern holds in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the UK. While 9/11 did not make coverage more negative in the long run, it did dramatically increase the prevalence of references to terrorism and extremism.


All the News Fit to Print

by Seth P. Fiderer

The rapidly changing media landscapes and press codes throughout Egypt and Tunisia have been prone to changes in values, regulation, and practices. This thesis explores how a landscape in flux leads to changes in coverage through the process of democratization and regime change. It demonstrates the change in coverage and sentiment around political opposition as journalists explored their newfound freedom to cover topics that had previously been off-limits. It finds that, as a result of rapidly changing political conditions, coverage of political opposition by state publications has been mostly ambiguous, while independent papers have used their new openness to take full advantage of their possibility for bias.

Text analysis methods used: machine translation, sentiment analysis, topic modeling.

Measuring Anti-Vaxx Sentiment on Social Media

by Campbell Scheuerman

Understanding how the spread of anti-vaccination rhetoric happens and its effectiveness is ultimately the first step in beginning to address it. Vaccine hesitation has been named one of the issues of our generation to watch vigilantly and understand more about it, because of the devastating effects it can have on the world community. This thesis provides a preliminary window of insight into the issue. I show that anti-vaxx social media employed more conspiracy words, and higher levels of fear and overall emotion, although pinpointing the precise how and why is challenging due to the brevity of most social media posts. The findings of the study provide insight into how public authorities might better position themselves as trusted sources of accurate information of vaccines — an important goal as a vaccine for COVID-19 is on the horizon.

Text analysis methods used: lexical analysis, collocation analysis.

Trade talks and populist thoughts

by Samuel Desmarais

Much of the recent work on trade connects rising economic pain from Chinese imports to increase in partisanship. Populism on both sides of the aisle, particularly Republicans, serves as the link between economic pain and partisanship. This paper seeks to test whether that populism is measurable, so as to see if it could be playing this theorized middle step in the causal process between economics and partisanship. There seems to be at least some increase on aggregate in the amount of populism, which supports claims that populism may be a part of the process. However, no evidence was found of an increase in rightist, out-group targeting populism. This casts some doubt on whether this form of populism is in fact mediating economic pain that has heavily fallen upon predominantly white, working-class communities.

Text analysis methods used: dictionary-based concept measurement, topic modeling.

A comparative analysis of media and legislative rhetoric on gun control

by Samyuktha Mahadevan

This study tests several hypotheses about media and legislative rhetoric about gun control in 3 countries: the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, while also drawing on evidence from Australia. A topic modeling analysis demonstrates that all three countries had similarities in their discourses, though there were not always consistent alignments between frames used by the media and by the legislature. More importantly, I identify the frames unique to each country. The discourse surrounding guns in the United States is far more complex than it is in either Canada or the United Kingdom, indicating the many ways that both policymakers and the media attempt to address the issue. In particular, in the United States, cultural- or identity-based frames play a large role; rights-based arguments, hunting, legal precedent, and the NRA were salient frames. In Canada, this effect was almost non-existent, which is surprising considering the existing scholarship on Canada and its relationship with guns. Hunting appeared as a salient topic in the media of both countries, confirming one aspect of the culture argument. Although we often use cultural and identity based arguments to defend gun ownership, the results from this study could flip that argument on its head and argue that such values are distractions from the issue at hand, which countries like Canada and the United Kingdom have addressed without cultural constraints.

Text analysis methods used: web scraping, lexical analysis, topic modeling.