Making sense: a reconstruction of people's understandings of the european constitutional referendum in the Netherlands

Christian Baden*, Claes H. De Vreese

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article investigates how voters made sense of the Dutch EU constitutional referendum. Based on a series of focus group interviews, it identifies what information people based their understandings on, and traces the relations they draw between concepts in their own accounts of their vote choices. Applying a cognitive connectionist perspective on the construction of meaning, it models people's considerations as paths across semantic networks. It finds that people shared considerable parts of the knowledge underlying their constructions, but used this information quite differently. They strategically selected frames from their information environment, and refrained contrary arguments to fit their constructions. Yes- and No-voters drew in systematically different additional information, while simultaneously engaging idiosyncratic concerns to personalize their accounts. People's understandings are thus informed and constrained, but by no means determined, by public discourse. Highlighting people's activity and creativity, this paper calls for a stronger audience perspective in political communication research.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)117-145
Number of pages29
JournalCommunications
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

Keywords

  • Cognitive mapping
  • European constitution
  • Referendum
  • Schema construction
  • Sense making

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