Professor Scott Althaus
Who We Are
Professor 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 Illinois Informatics Institute, and the Institute for Computing in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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 Science, Communication Research, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Journal 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) 265-7845
Fax: (217) 265-7880
Secondary Office: 328E David Kinley Hall, 1407 West Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL , 61801
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Althaus, Scott, and Kylee Britzman. Forthcoming. “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. 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.
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: http://www.clinecenter.uiuc.edu/airbrushing_history/
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This graduate seminar examines problems in the conceptualization of public opinion as a social phenomenon, in the communication of opinions from mass publics to political elites, and in the interpretation of public opinion as “the will of the people.” 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, and does it possess the various characteristics that theories of democracy suggest it should? In the process of addressing these questions, the course engages scholarship from multiple disciplines to clarify the roles that “bottom up” communication is supposed to play in the conduct of democratic politics.