Professor Scott Althaus

Who We Are

Professor Scott Althaus

Scott Althaus


Professor Althaus joined the University of Illinois faculty in 1996 with a joint appointment in the departments of Political Science and Communication. He is currently the Merriam Professor of Political Science, Professor of Communication, and Director of the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research at the University of Illinois. He is also a faculty affiliate of the School of Information Sciences, the National Center for Supercomputer Applications, the Center for Social and Behavioral Science, and the Illinois Informatics Institute.

Professor Althaus’s research and teaching interests explore the communication processes that support political accountability in democratic societies and that empower political discontent in non-democratic societies. His interests focus on four areas of inquiry: (1) how journalists construct news coverage about public affairs, (2) how leaders attempt to shape news coverage for political advantage, (3) how citizens use news coverage for making sense of public affairs, and (4) how the opinions of citizens are communicated to leaders through collective preferences, such as the results of opinion polls, and through collective behaviors, such as civil unrest. He has particular interests in popular support for war, data science methods for extreme-scale analysis of news coverage, cross-national comparative research on political communication, the psychology of information processing, and communication concepts in democratic theory. His current projects include using data mining methods to help journalists cover terrorist attacks in responsible ways, a solo-authored book manuscript to be published by Cambridge University Press about the dynamics of popular support for war in the United States, and a co-authored book manuscript (with Tamir Sheafer and Gadi Wolfsfeld) on understanding the role of media in supporting governmental accountability and increasing the government’s responsiveness to citizen needs.

Professor Althaus serves on the editorial boards of Critical Review, Political Communication, and Public Opinion Quarterly. His research has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political ScienceCommunication ResearchJournalism and Mass Communication QuarterlyJournal of Broadcasting & Electronic MediaJournal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Communication, and Sociological Methodology. His book on the political uses of opinion surveys in democratic societies, Collective Preferences in Democratic Politics: Opinion Surveys and the Will of the People (Cambridge University Press, 2003) , was awarded a 2004 Goldsmith Book Prize by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, and a 2004 David Easton Book Prize by the Foundations of Political Theory section of the American Political Science Association. He was named 2014-15 Faculty Fellow at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC, a 2004-5 Beckman Associate by the UIUC Center for Advanced Studies, and a 2003-4 Helen Corley Petit Scholar by the UIUC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was honored with a Dean's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UIUC, and his undergraduate and graduate courses regularly appear on the university's "List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students."


Primary Office: Cline Center for Advanced Social Research, University of Illinois, 2001 South First Street, Suite 207, Champaign, IL, 61870-7461

Phone: (217) 265-7879
Fax: (217) 265-7880

Secondary Office: 328E David Kinley Hall, 1407 West Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL , 61801


Kasper Welbers, Wouter van Atteveldt, Scott Althaus, Hartmut Wessler, Joseph Bajjalieh, Chung-hong Chan, and Marc Jungblut. Forthcoming. “Linking Event Archives to News: A Computational Method for Analyzing the Gatekeeping Process.” Communication Methods and Measures.

Wessler, Hartmut, Scott Althaus, Chung-hong Chan, Marc Jungblut, Kasper Welbers, and Wouter van Atteveldt. Forthcoming. “Multiperspectival Normative Assessment: The Case of Mediated Reactions to Terrorism.” Communication Theory.

Althaus, Scott, Buddy Peyton, and Dan Shalmon. Forthcoming. “A Total Error Approach for Validating Event Data.” American Behavioral Scientist.

Chan, Chung-hong, Bajjalieh, Joseph, Auvil, Loretta, Wessler, Hartmut, Althaus, Scott, Welbers, Kasper, van Atteveldt, Wouter, & Jungblut, Marc. (2021). Four best practices for measuring news sentiment using ‘off-the-shelf’ dictionaries: a large-scale p-hacking experiment. Computational Communication Research, 3(1), 1-27.

Althaus, Scott, May Berenbaum, Jenna Jordan, and Dan Shalmon. 2021. “No Buzz for Bees: Media Coverage of Pollinator Decline.” PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 18(2). 

Chan, Chung-hong, Jing Zeng, Hartmut Wessler, Marc Jungblut, Kasper Welbers, Joseph Bajjalieh, Wouter van Atteveldt, and Scott Althaus. 2020. “Reproducible Extraction of Cross-lingual Topics (rectr).” Communication Methods and Measures. 14(4): 285-305.

Chan, Chung-hong, Hartmut Wessler, Eike Mark Rinke, Kasper Welbers, Wouter van Atteveldt, and Scott Althaus. Forthcoming. “How Combining Terrorism, Muslim, and Refugee Topics Drives Emotional Tone in Online News: A Six-Country Cross-Cultural Sentiment Analysis.” International Journal of Communication. 14: 3569-94.

van Atteveldt, Wouter, Scott Althaus, and Hartmut Wessler. 2021. “The Trouble with Sharing Your Privates: Pursuing Ethical Open Science and Collaborative Research across National Jurisdictions Using Sensitive Data.” Political Communication. 38(1-2): 192-98.

Althaus, Scott, Kaye Usry, Stanley Richards, Bridgette Van Thuyle, Isabelle Aron, Lu Huang, Kalev Leetaru, Monica Muehlfeld, Karissa Snouffer, Seth Webber, Yuji Zhang, and Patricia F. Phalen. 2018. “Global News Broadcasting in the Pre-Television Era: A Cross-National Comparative Analysis of World War Two Newsreel Coverage.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. 62(1):147-167

Nardulli, Peter, Scott Althaus, and Matthew Hayes. 2015. “A Progressive Supervised-learning Approach to Generating Rich Civil Strife Data.” Sociological Methodology. 45(1): 148-83. 

Althaus, Scott, Nathaniel Swigger, Svitlana Chernykh, David Hendry, Sergio Wals, and Christopher Tiwald. 2014. “Uplifting Manhood to Wonderful Heights? News Coverage of the Human Costs of War from World War I to Gulf War Two.” Political Communication. 31(2): 193-217. 

Althaus, Scott, Brittany Bramlett, and James Gimpel. 2012. “When War Hits Home: The Geography of Military Losses and Support for War in Time and Space.” Journal of Conflict Resolution. 56(3): 382-412.

Tewksbury, David, Scott Althaus, and Matthew Hibbing. 2011. “Estimating Self-Reported News Exposure Across and Within Typical Days: Should Surveys Use More Refined Measures?” Communication Methods and Measures. 5(4): 311-28.

Althaus, Scott, Nathaniel Swigger, Svitlana Chernykh, David Hendry, Sergio Wals, and Christopher Tiwald. 2011. “Assumed Transmission in Political Science: A Call for Bringing Description Back In.” Journal of Politics. 73(4): 1065-1080.

Althaus, Scott, and Kevin Coe. 2011. "Priming Patriots: Social Identity Processes and the Dynamics of Public Support for War." Public Opinion Quarterly. 75(1): 65-88.

Althaus, Scott. 2010. “The Forgotten Role of the Global Newsreel Industry in the Long Transition from Text to Television.” International Journal of Press/Politics 15(2): 193-218.

Althaus, Scott, Anne Cizmar, and James Gimpel. 2009. “Media Supply, Audience Demand, and the Geography of News Consumption in the United States.” Political Communication 26(3): 249-77.

Cortell, Andrew, Robert Eisinger, and Scott Althaus. 2009. “Why Embed? Explaining the Bush Administration’s Decision to Embed Reporters in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq” American Behavioral Scientist. 52(5): 657-77.

Leetaru, Kalev and Scott Althaus. 2009. “Airbrushing History, American Style: The Mutability of Government Documents in the Digital Era.” D-LIB Magazine 15(1-2)

Althaus, Scott, Bullock, John, Friedman, Jeffrey, Lupia, Arthur, and Paul Quirk. 2008. "Roundtable 2: Ignorance and Error." Critical Review 20(4): 445 - 461.

Althaus, Scott and Todd Trautman. 2008. “The Impact of Television Market Size on Voter Turnout in American Elections.” American Politics Research. 36(6): 824-856.

Althaus, Scott, and Young Mie Kim. 2006. “Priming Effects in Complex Information Environments: Reassessing the Impact of News Discourse on Presidential Approval.” Journal of Politics 68(4): 960-976.

Althaus, Scott. 2006. “False Starts, Dead Ends, and New Opportunities in Public Opinion Research.” Critical Review 18(1–3): 75-104.

Edy, Jill, Scott Althaus, and Patricia Phalen. 2005. “Using News Abstracts to Represent News Agendas.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 82(2): 434-46.

Althaus, Scott, and Devon Largio. 2004. “When Osama Became Saddam: Origins and Consequences of the Change in America’s Public Enemy #1.” PS: Political Science & Politics. 37(4): 795-9.

Althaus, Scott. 2003. “When News Norms Collide, Follow the Lead: New Evidence for Press Independence.” Political Communication 20(4): 381-414.

Althaus, Scott. 2002. “American News Consumption during Times of National Crisis.” PS: Political Science & Politics. 35(3): 517-21.

Althaus, Scott, Jill Edy, and Patricia Phalen. 2002. “Using the Vanderbilt Television Abstracts to Track Broadcast News Content: Possibilities and Pitfalls.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 46(3): 473-492.

Althaus, Scott and David Tewksbury. 2002. “Agenda Setting and the ‘New’ News: Patterns of Issue Importance among Readers of the Paper and Online Versions of the New York Times.” Communication Research 29(2): 180-207.

Althaus, Scott, Peter Nardulli, and Daron Shaw. 2002. “Candidate Appearances in Presidential Elections, 1972-2000.” Political Communication 19(1): 49-72.

Althaus, Scott, Jill Edy, and Patricia Phalen. 2001. “Using Substitutes for Full-Text News Stories in Content Analysis: Which Text is Best?” American Journal of Political Science 45(3): 707-723.

Tewksbury, David, and Scott Althaus. 2000. “Differences in Knowledge Acquisition among Readers of the Paper and On-line Versions of a National Newspaper.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 77(3): 457-479.

Tewksbury, David and Scott Althaus. 2000. “An Examination of Motivations for Using the Internet.” Communication Research Reports 17(2): 127-138.

Althaus, Scott and David Tewksbury. 2000. “Patterns of Internet and Traditional News Media Use in a Networked Community.” Political Communication 17(1): 21-45.

Althaus, Scott. 1998. “Information Effects in Collective Preferences.” American Political Science Review 92(3): 545–58.

Althaus, Scott. 1997. “Computer-Mediated Communication in the University Classroom: An Experiment with On-line Discussions.” Communication Education 46(July): 158-74.

Althaus, Scott, Jill Edy, Robert Entman, and Patricia Phalen. 1996. “Revising the Indexing Hypothesis: Officials, Media and the Libya Crisis.” Political Communication 13(4): 407-21.

Althaus, Scott. 1996. “Opinion Polls, Information Effects and Political Equality: Exploring Ideological Biases in Collective Opinion.” Political Communication 13(1): 3-21.


Althaus, Scott. Forthcoming. “Report Terrorist Attacks Responsibly.” In Fixing American Politics: Civic Priorities for the Media Age, ed. Roderick Hart. Philadelphia: Routledge.

Althaus, Scott, and Kylee Britzman. 2018. “Researching the Issued Content of American Newsreels.” Researching Newsreels: Local, National and Transnational Case Studies. Ciara Chambers, Mats Jönsson, and Roel Vande Winkel, eds. London: Palgrave.

Althaus, Scott. 2012. “What’s Good and Bad in Political Communication Research: Normative Standards for Evaluating Media and Citizen Performance.” Sage Handbook of Political Communication. Holli Semetko and Margaret Scammell, editors. London: Sage Publications.

Althaus, Scott, and David Tewksbury. 2011. “Do We Still Need Media Use Measures At All?” Improving Public Opinion Surveys: Interdisciplinary Innovation and the American National Election Studies. John Aldrich and Kathleen M. McGraw, editors. New York: Princeton University Press.

Althaus, Scott. 2008. “Polls, Opinion.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd ed. Darity, William A., editor. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd edition. Volume 6, pp. 355-358.  Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008.

Althaus, Scott. 2008. “Free Falls, High Dives, and the Future of Democratic Accountability.” In The Politics of News/The News of Politics, 2nd ed. Doris Graber, Denis McQuail, and Pippa Norris, eds. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Althaus, Scott. 2006. “The Kennedy/Nixon Debates.” Encyclopedia of Media and Politics in America. Todd Schaefer and Tom Birkland, eds. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Althaus, Scott. 2006. “Pool Journalism.” Encyclopedia of Media and Politics in America. Todd Schaefer and Tom Birkland, eds. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Althaus, Scott. 2001. “Who’s Voted in When the People Tune Out? Information Effects in Congressional Elections” in Communication in U.S. Elections: New Agendas, edited by Roderick P. Hart and Daron Shaw. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.


Wolfsfeld, Gadi, Tamir Sheafer, and Scott Althaus. Forthcoming. Building Theory in Political Communication: The Politics-Media-Politics Approach. Oxford University Press.

Althaus, Scott. 2003. Collective Preferences in Democratic Politics: Opinion Surveys and the Will of the People. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Samberg, Rachael, Timothy Vollmer, Scott Althaus, David Bamman, Sara Benson, Brandon Butler, Beth Cate, Kyle K. Courtney, Sean Flynn, Maria Gould, Cody Hennesy, Eleanor Dickson Koehl, Thomas Padilla, Stacy Reardon, Matthew Sag, Brianna Schofield, Megan Senseney, Glen Worthy. Building Legal Literacies for Text Data Mining. University of California Berkeley: Berkeley, CA. 

Althaus, Scott, Mark Bevir, Jeffrey Friedman, Hélène Landemore, Rogers Smith, and Susan Stokes. 2014. “Roundtable on Political Epistemology.” Critical Review. 26(1–2):1-32.

Althaus, Scott. 2011. “Moving Beyond the Traditional Defaults of Political Communication Research.” Political Communication Report21(3).

Althaus, Scott and Kalev Leetaru. 2008. Airbrushing History, American Style. Online research report detailing pattern of deletion and revision of documents in the public record by the Bush White House. Available URL:

Althaus, Scott. 2008. “Will Election Polling Be Thrown by the Ground Game?” Talking Points Memo Café, October 22.

Althaus, Scott and David Tewksbury. 2008. Roundtable on New Media Use Measures for the ANES, with Jason Barabas, William Eveland, Myiah Hutchens Lively, Fei Shen, Robert Shapiro, Erika Franklin Fowler, Ken Goldstein, Dhavan Shah, and response by Scott Althaus and David Tewksbury. Political Communication Report 18(1).

Scott Althaus and David Tewksbury. 2007. “Toward a New Generation of Media Use Measures for the ANES.” American National Election Studies Pilot Study Report, No. nes011903.

Paletz, David, Doris Graber, Susan Herbst, Paolo Mancini, and Scott Althaus. 2005. “In Memory of David Swanson.” Political Communication 22(2): 1-6.

Althaus, Scott. 2005. “How Exceptional Was Turnout in 2004?” Political Communication Report 15(1).

Althaus, Scott. 1996. “Internet Resources for American Politics and Public Opinion.” Votes & Opinions 2(2): 14-8.

Althaus, Scott. 1994. “El carácter conservador de la opinión pública.” Trans., L. González. Este Pais 42(August): 3-24.

Politics and the Media | PS 312 / CMN 325 / MS 322 | Course Syllabus 

This upper-division undergraduate course examines the processes of mass-mediated political communication in democratic societies. Although these processes can be studied in a variety of contexts, this course will focus primarily on the interaction between news media, audiences, and strategic communicators in the United States. Special emphasis will be given to the role of news media in democratic theory; the politics of media control; the role of political communication in policymaking and in time of war; the impact of new mass communication technologies; the effects of media messages on audiences; and factors shaping the construction of news such as journalistic routines, media economics, and the strategic management of news by politicians.

Campaigning to Win | PS 411 / CMN 424 | Course Syllabus

This bridge course (for both upper-division undergraduates and graduate students) is a hands-on, “how it’s done” course that emphasizes the methods and tactics of modern political campaigns. This course uses a case study approach to illustrate the theories and concepts of persuasion, message targeting, and message delivery in the campaign context. The primary focus of these case studies will be on contemporary campaign practices in the United States, but we also examine important historical cases that illustrate successful and unsuccessful attempts at mass persuasion. 

Junior Honors Seminar | PS 494 | Course Syllabus

This upper-division undergraduate honors course introduces students to the process of scientific research by engaging them in original academic research projects that have the potential to contribute to current public and scholarly debates. The topics of these projects change from course to course, but all of them offer immersion learning experiences that involve students in real-world social science research using the methods of quantitative content analysis.

Content Analysis Practicum | CMN 529 | Course Syllabus 

The objectives of this graduate-level methods course on content analysis are threefold. First, to teach a generic and multipurpose method of quantitative content analysis that is commonly employed by scholars of mass communication and political communication to measure trends and discourse elements in news coverage. Second, to give students practical experience in all stages of quantitative content analysis, from protocol design to validity testing, reliability testing, coding, data entry, and data analysis. Third, to produce publishable research papers on the dynamics of public communication.

Political Communication | CMN 529 / PS 519 | Course Syllabus

This graduate course is an advanced introduction to theory and research in the field of political communication. Its goal is to acquaint students with the field’s history, research questions, theoretical approaches, empirical accomplishments, and likely future directions.

Public Opinion in the Public Sphere | CMN 529 / PS 519 | Course Syllabus

Although the discipline of political science is rooted in a normative concern for democracy, few empirically-minded political scientists have even a basic understanding or conceptual fluency for those aspects of democratic theory that provide a strong and coherent foundation for empirical work across the subfields. This weakness in the discipline is now a serious problem for our field. Democracy seems to be in crisis around the world, and political scientists can’t help the problem when they have simplistic or incoherent conceptions of what democracy is and what democratic rule is supposed to look like. This course is designed to fill this gap when it comes to understanding the nature and purpose of public opinion in democratic politics. It seeks to address what may be the central questions of democratic politics: What is public opinion, how do we know it when we see it, what is it supposed to do, and does it possess the characteristics that theories of democracy suggest it should? This is therefore a course designed to prepare students to become theoretically innovative public opinion researchers who possess a basic fluency in useful concepts from democratic theory that have yet to be fully recognized by or integrated into the cutting-edge debates within quantitative political science journals.