Texas Tech University

Erik P. Bucy

Marshall and Sharleen Formby Regents Professor of Strategic Communication
Professional Communication

Email: erik.bucy@ttu.edu

Phone: +1.806.834.3346

Research: Political, Science, Social media, Visual, Emerging Media Studies 


Twitter: @erikpbucy

Ph.D. University of Maryland, College Park, 1998
M.A. University of Southern California, 1989 

View Full CV

Erik P. Bucy


Erik P. Bucy is the Marshall and Sharleen Formby Regents Professor of Strategic Communication in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. For the second half of 2018 he will be a visiting senior fellow in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research interests include visual and nonverbal analysis of news and politics, user engagement with media technologies, and normative theories of media and democracy. Bucy's scholarly work has been published in numerous leading journals in communication, information technology, and media politics. He is the author, with Maria Elizabeth Grabe, of Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections (Oxford, 2009), winner of two outstanding book awards, and editor, with R. Lance Holbert, of the Sourcebook for Political Communication Research: Methods, Measures, and Analytical Techniques (Routledge, 2013). From 2009 to 2016, Bucy was the editor of Politics and the Life Sciences, the interdisciplinary flagship journal of the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences. During his editorship, the journal became a publication of Cambridge University Press.

Prior to Texas Tech, Bucy was Vice President of Research at SmithGeiger, LLC, a Los Angeles-based media research consultancy, where he provided research analysis to a broad range of media and nonprofit clients—from local news stations and national networks to digital media companies and governmental agencies. Prior to market research, Bucy was a tenured associate professor at Indiana University, Bloomington with adjunct appointments in the Department of Political Science and School of Informatics. He has also held visiting and research appointments at the University of Oxford (2017), UCLA (2012), the University of Michigan (2007-08), and Dartmouth College (2005). His research on media credibility has been funded by the National Association of Broadcasters, his work on image bites by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University, and his analysis of televised presidential debates by the C-SPAN Education Foundation. At Texas Tech, Bucy has received the Billy I. Ross Faculty Achievement Award from the College of Media and Communication, along with the Barnie E. Rushing Faculty Distinguished Research Award. His research activities are regularly featured in the Texas Tech Today online campus newsletter and since spring 2017 he has hosted and moderated the Civil Counterpoints discussion series, which is broadcast on KTTZ-TV Channel 5 to the local Lubbock community.

Dr. Bucy received his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Maryland, College Park, his MA in Journalism from USC-Annenberg, and BA in English from UCLA. He is a native of Los Angeles and worked in the newspaper industry early in his career. A former staff writer for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Bucy served as deputy press secretary and national scheduler for Jerry Brown's 1992 presidential campaign.


In the study of media and democracy political information and involvement is often studied from the perspective of institutions and elites, in other words, from the top or power center, rather than from the bottom or periphery of the system. My research takes a different approach, investigating civic involvement and media engagement from the point of view of the typical citizen or audience member who, in general, is not very attentive to the news or politics but who manages to make reliable assessments about events in the public sphere through information gleaned largely from mass media—and who feels some sense of connection to the political system through communication technology. Importantly, information from news can take the form of verbal narratives or visual images. Both play a vital role in informed citizenship, although images are under appreciated for their information value.

Though often overlooked in research, the nonverbal component of political news is vital to citizen understandings of political processes because visuals are more readily understood than verbally based communications and pronouncements. Visual processing, which is highly evolved, is also highly efficient and low cost in a cognitive sense, whereas verbal messages require a language system to convey meaning—and literacy levels in the mass audience are very uneven. Though they carry substantial meaning, images require no textual literacy, making nonverbal communication a potent vehicle for communicating political intentions via mass media. 

Using this observation as a departure point, my work can be categorized into different streams of research. First, several of my experimental studies using information processing theory, affective intelligence, and principles of visual persuasion (which group into the emerging subfield of ‘media biopolitics') have examined the cognitive, emotional, and physiological consequences of leader portrayals on television news, particularly the nonverbal component of those portrayals. From this research I have derived a model of viewer processing of traumatic news, identified judgmental shortcuts viewers rely on to make sense of news and politics, and compared the influence of visual and verbal forms of persuasive influence on social media responses to nationally televised debates. This latter set of studies, which links biobehavioral and computational approaches to assess audience responses to televised politics, generally finds facial expressions, voice tone, and physical gestures to be more consistent and robust predictors of the volume and valence of Twitter expression than candidates' persuasive strategies, verbal utterances, policy stances during presidential debates.

In a second stream of research, I investigate how new communication technologies and media formats affect civic participation and assessments of political and media institutions. These studies address the interplay between media, politics, and emerging technologies. Here, a prediction I have advanced and found evidence for, dubbed the media participation hypothesis, holds that as political involvement becomes increasingly mediatized, intensive use of interactive public affairs media will produce a heightened sense of system satisfaction and political efficacy—a trend that should manifest itself longitudinally as media become ever more interactive in nature. With the growth of participatory platforms, we indeed see corresponding and statistically significant increases in political system efficacy (the perception of governmental responsiveness) among the heaviest users of these platforms. Though not without its downsides and dysfunctions, participatory media use affords citizens with continuous opportunities for civic engagement that traditional media and politics have historically resisted.

A third interest of mine, which pulls back from individual-level processes to consider larger civic and journalistic concerns, involves normative theories of media and democracy, including evaluations of media performance by citizens and elites. Here, I have examined the intellectual assumptions of political communication research and the purported crisis surrounding the news media's increasing structural role in campaigns, elections, and civic life generally. My two most recent books, the award-winning Image Bite Politics (Oxford, 2009) and my Sourcebook for Political Communication Research (Routledge, 2011/2013), provide new understandings of the political news landscape by demonstrating the meaning and influence of visual representations of presidential elections—and provide researchers with a comprehensive set of methods and measures to more effectively study the communicative dynamics that influence political outcomes.


  • Content analysis
  • Surveys
  • Experiments
  • Focus groups

Research Areas

  • Political communication 
  • Science communication 
  • Social media
  • Visual communication 
  • Emerging Media Studies 

Selected Publications

Bucy, E. P., & Groshek, J. (2018). Empirical support for the media participation hypothesis: Trends across presidential elections, 1992-2012. New Media & Society, 20(5), 1889-1909.  DOI: https://doi.org/ 10.1177/1461444817709281

Bucy, E. P. (2017). Media biopolitics: The emergence of a subfield. In S. A. Peterson and A. Somit (Eds.), Handbook of Biology and Politics (pp. 284-303). Cheltenham, UK: Edwin Elgar Publishing.

Gong, Z. H., & Bucy, E. P. (2016). When style obscures substance: Visual attention to display appropriateness in the 2012 presidential debates. Communication Monographs, 83(3), 349-372. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03637751.2015.1119868

Teaching Focus

  • Political Communication (ADV 6315)
  • Interactivity and New Media (ADV 6315)
  • Research Methods (MCOM 5364)
  • Seminar in Mass Communication Theory (MCOM 5366)

Beyond the content of any particular class or course of study, perhaps the most important benefits of a higher education include the cultivation of an inquiring, tolerant mind and an appreciation for, if not development of, active citizenship. In my teaching-related activities I attempt to convey the excitement for discovery and engagement with ideas that I experience in my own research and engagement with the literature. I also emphasize the value, both individually and socially, of understanding perspectives different from your own.

My basic outlook on the teaching process is to view students as active learners rather than passive recipients of information, and I take pains to ensure that students are respectful of one another and that a diversity of viewpoints are heard. I view my role in the classroom as a facilitator of knowledge rather than pedagogue. Towards this end, I attempt to create learning environments that encourage students to engage in active inquiry and learn the habits of good citizenship; I also urge them to think about the contributions they can make to society after their college years.

That said, I believe that the most important part of a college education probably occurs outside the classroom, especially for graduate students. Time spent with students in informal consultations, advising sessions, or as collaborators on research projects are often more productive and educational than classroom lectures and resonate long after the content of any particular seminar or course is largely forgotten.

Over the years I have advised dozens of thesis, dissertation, and capstone projects and have sponsored numerous independent studies at all levels—with undergraduate, master's and doctoral students. These studies function primarily as a way for students to learn more about a particular area of interest and develop their own expertise, which is not just intellectually stimulating but also personally empowering. Rather than insisting on projects that closely align with my own research agenda, I encourage students to pursue their own interests, whether relating to news and politics, developments in emerging media studies, or large-scale social issues such as protest movements.

As a natural outgrowth of my collaborative style, I have involved many students in my own research endeavors, often leading to conference presentations and eventual publications. Students should always be regarded as collaborators in the research process rather than available labor.

Leadership & Awards

Barnie E. Rushing Faculty Distinguished Research Award (2013), College of Media and Communication, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX.

College of Media and Communication Billy I. Ross Faculty Achievement Award (2013), Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX.

Distinguished Book Award (2010, November, with Maria Elizabeth Grabe). National Communication Association, Communication and Social Cognition Division.

  • for Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections (Oxford, 2009).

Outstanding Book Award (2010, June, with Maria Elizabeth Grabe). International Communication Association, Singapore.

  • for Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections (Oxford, 2009).

Walter Benjamin Award for Outstanding Article in the Field of Media Ecology (2002, June; with Kimberly S. Gregson). Media Ecology Association, New York, NY.

Life Member (1997-present). Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) National Leadership Honor Society, University of Maryland, College Park.

Life Member (1984, June). Alpha Gamma Sigma, California Community College Honor Society.


Politics and the Life Sciences, biannual peer-reviewed journal sponsored by the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences and published by Cambridge University Press (2009-2016).



The Information Society: An International Journal, peer-reviewed technology journal published by Taylor & Francis (2003-present).

Explorations in Media Ecology, peer-reviewed quarterly journal sponsored by the Media Ecology Association (2004-present).



Politics and the Life Sciences (2017, Fall). Special issue on “The Body in Politics: Emotional, Perceptual, and Visceral Dimensions” (with Delia Dumitrescu). 

American Behavioral Scientist (2016, December). Special issue on“Nonverbal Communication in Politics: Implications for Democratic Judgments and Discourse” (with Delia Dumitrescu).

The Information Society: An International Journal (2004, October). Forum on “Theorizing Interactivity.”



Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, peer-reviewed quarterly journal sponsored by the Broadcast Education Association (2014-present).

Journal of Communication Technology, peer-reviewed quarterly journal sponsored by the Communication Technology Division of AEJMC (2017-present).

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, peer-reviewed quarterly journal sponsored by the International Communication Association (2013-present).