Professor Katrin Voltmer


I retired from university services in 2018, but remain an active scholar with a particular interest in the role of media and communication in transitional democracies.

I received my PhD in Political Science in 1996 from the Free University Berlin and worked as Researcher and Lecturer at the Social Science Center Berlin (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin) and the Free University Berlin before moving to Britain in 2000 to join the School of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds.

I have been member of the ECREA Bureau (2012-2016) and Chair and Vice Chair of the ECREA Political Communication Section (2008-2012).

I have been member of the Editorial Board of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford (2011-2019) and serve on the Advisory Board of the Austrian Academy of Science, Section Media and Communication (since 2017). Between 2017 and 2020 I was Global Fellow of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). 

I am Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (since 2013).



  • Retired

Research interests

As a political communication scholar, my research interests revolve around questions of communicative democracy: How democracy is communicated by various media platforms and how this affects the quality of democracy; how citizenship is constituted through public and interpersonal communication; and how power is projected through different forms of strategic communication. I have a particular interest in the role of media and communication in processes of democratisation, but have also extensively investigated the relationship between media and power in established democracies and the impact of public communication on political orientations and participation.

  • Media and democratic transitions.

Since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 I have been fascinated by the way struggles for democratic change have been communicated and were shaped by the changing media environment in which they take place. Questions like how democratic institutions and the expansion of spaces of public communication work in fragile transitional contexts, how power and identity claims are negotiated in environments of multiple communication flows, and what ‘democracy’ means to citizens who experience these transitions in their daily lives are at the heart of this research programme.

Between 2014 and 2017 I led the EU-funded project Media, Conflict and Democratisation (MeCoDEM) which explored how journalists, civil society actors and political elites communicate during times of conflict over democratic transformations. Extensive fieldwork was conducted in four countries each representing distinct constellations of political transitions: Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa (for details see the project website at Main findings from this project were published in : Voltmer, K. et al. (eds.) (2019, Palgrave) Media, Communication and the Struggle for Democratic Change. Case Studies on Contested Transitions. 

Previous publications on the topic include the monograph The Media in Transitional Democracies (2013, Polity), which won the 2017 Book Award of the International Journal of Press/Politics in recognition of its international impact in the field; and the edited volume Mass Media and Political Communication in New Democracies (2006, Routledge).

I am currently associated with the project Journalism in Struggles for Democracy: Media and Polarization in the Middle East’ (Principal Investigator: Kjetil Selvik, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs).

  • Media and power in established democracies.

This area of research is concerned with the interaction between media and political elites and the way in which they negotiate their relationship. In the book Political Communication in Postmodern Democracy. Challenging the Primacy of Politics (ed. with Kees Brants; 2011, Palgrave) we explained the changing relationship between journalists, politics and citizens as a two-dimensional process: On a horizontal level, ‘mediatisation’ denotes the shifting power balance between the media and political power, while the vertical dimension captures a process of ‘de-centralisation’ whereby popular narratives compete with, and increasingly undermine elite definitions of politics and society.

Another strand of research investigates how and under what conditions the media might impact on the policy decision-making process and its outcomes (see Koch-Baumgarten, S. and K. Voltmer, eds., 2010. Public Policy and the Mass Media. The Interplay of Mass Communication and Political Decision Making. Abingdon: Routledge).

  • Media and political culture.

In various studies I have investigated the impact of media exposure on political attitudes and political participation. Based on comparative survey data, I have studied whether the media are responsible for political alienation and apathy both in the context of established and new democracies. An ESRC-funded research project on Conflict, Communication and Political Respect explored the relationship between media use, interpersonal communication and citizens' response to partisan conflicts. Drawing on thinkers such as Kant, Habermas and Honneth, the project developed the concept of ‘respect for political opponents’ as an important civic orientation that fosters deliberation across lines of political divisions, whether defined by ideology, cultural identities or socio-economic interests.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • 1996 Dr.phil. in Political Science, Free University Berlin (Germany)

Student education

Please note that I no longer supervise doctoral students.