Do you hear what I hear? Reception in Australian political discourse and effects on engagement with democracy

Ker Walsh, Jean (2016) Do you hear what I hear? Reception in Australian political discourse and effects on engagement with democracy. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This thesis in political communication details a qualitative investigation into how citizens receive and make sense of political discourse in a twenty-first century democracy. Recognising criticism of the national discourse as ‘dumbed down’, it explores with a cohort of Australian citizens what meaning they receive from contemporary discourse and how it affects their engagement with democracy. The project employs an innovative method of recruiting participants at a polling booth in Australia’s most typical suburb, followed a month later by same day data collection from three wide-scope groups in facilitated discussion. Analysis of the data finds citizens diagnose the discourse as negative and of poor quality, for which they first blame the media. There is an expressed fear that the shallowness of discourse is dumbing them down. In contradiction to their expectations of democratic citizenship, they are powerless to make themselves heard within a discourse which neither recognises nor respects them. They find the discourse alienating, although overwhelming support for compulsory voting militates against democratic dis-engagement. Digital age communications are used to support unstructured democratic engagement and circumvent the banality of local political discourse.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1606 Political Science
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Arts
Keywords democracy, politics, citizens, community, voting, participation, involvement, political communication, narrative, elections, citizenship, accountability, technology, globalisation, consumerism, capitalism, neoliberalism, cognition, language, framing, powerlessness, Australia, Oak Park, Melbourne
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