Journalism 614: Communication and Public Opinion

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Transcript Journalism 614: Communication and Public Opinion

Journalism 614:
Agenda Setting and Framing
Categories of Effects:
 1. Agenda Setting
 2. Priming
 3. Cueing
 4. Framing
Agenda Setting is
 …the process by which problems and
alternative solutions gain or lose public
and elite attention.
 …a fierce competition because we cannot
consider every issue at once because the
public’s “carrying capacity” is too small
Why is Agenda Setting Important?
 E. E. Schattschneider: ‘The definition of the
alternatives is the supreme instrument of power”
 Control over agenda means control over outcomes
 Agenda setting is therefore about getting on the
agenda, and about keeping things off of it.
The Foundations of a Paradigm
 Rejection of persuasion
– Focus on cognitive processes
 Rediscovery of powerful effects
– Response against the limited effects paradigm
 Interest in media--politics interface and
conditions under which effects occur
Agenda Setting
 Agenda-setting
– “telling us what to think about” (Cohen)
– Identified with McCombs & Shaw (1972)
– Emphasis on how the media shapes public opinion
concerning the relative importance of issues
– Indicators of media emphasis
Attention (frequency and length of stories)
Placement (top story, “above the fold”)
Content cues (headlines, photos, tone)
Number of sources / Number of outlets
Four Phases of Research
 Nearly 300 published studies
– First phase - publication of McCombs &
Shaw’s original research - coin the term
– Second phase - follow-up to confirm the effect
and discover contingencies
– Third phase - new domains - agenda of
candidate character and personal concerns
– Fourth phase - attention to the sources of the
media agenda - inter-media effects
How Issues Reach the Agenda
 Group conflict
 Leadership activity
 Protest movements
 Media coverage or activity
 Changes in indicators
 Political changes
 Crises and Focusing Events
Special Role of Focusing Events
 “a rare, sudden, well-known, actually or
potentially harmful event.”
– Mass Shooting, Earthquake, Govt Shutdown…
 Tend to induce sudden attention to issues
 Can trigger intensive group interest/activity
 Focusing events can fade fast off agenda
Studying Agenda Setting
 Time-order is key
– Media shape public agenda?
– Media follow public agenda?
– Both respond to something else
• Institutional prompting
• Objective reality
– Studies show that there is a time-ordered
connection between media and public agenda
• Cross-lagged correlations - arbitrary time lag
• More sophisticated studies improve early methods
Major Questions
 Who sets the public agenda, and under what
conditions is this effect likely to occur?
 Who sets the media agenda, and which
media direct the agenda-setting process?
 Who sets the agendas of interest groups,
leaders, and policy makers?
Contingent conditions
 Need for cognition/orientation
– Increases agenda setting through media surveillance
 Political involvement/interest
– Increases agenda setting through news use
 Issue abstraction
– More pronounced for abstract issues
 Personal viewpoints
– Increases when consistent with personal orientation
 Interpersonal discussion
– Reduces media dependence for agenda development
Setting the media agenda
 Intermedia agenda setting - influence that agendas
of different media have on each other
 Political advertising — and political elites —
drive the agenda of all news organization
 National news agencies have been found to drive
the agenda of local news agencies
 National newspaper have been found to drive the
agenda of television networks and digital outlets
Setting the elite agenda
 Reciprocal causation between journalists
and policy makers - both have influence
 Media coverage can help shape the agenda
of policy-makers
– However, these effects do not appear to
ultimately affect policy making itself
 Elites pay attention to the public agenda that
the media helps to establish
Problems with Agenda Setting
 Trouble linking evidence to key theories of
society, news work, and human psychology
– Often focused on aggregate level effects – shift
in issue priorities across the population – and
rely on incomplete psychological explanations
– Failure to fully integrate content and effects in
coherent studies of media effects
• Limited experimental evidence
Questions about Digital Media
 May lessen the agenda-setting effects
– More content choice
– More control over content
– More outlets and opinions
 Blogs, in particular, rely on media agenda
– This may strengthen agenda setting effects
Priming (Iyengar & Kinder)
 Drawing attention to an issue can change
the criteria used to evaluate political leaders
– Issues high on the public agenda serve as basis
for judging the success or failure of elites
– Short-term effect or long-term effect?
– Priming in politics may have profound effects
• E.g., Media attention to Persian Gulf war primes
positive evaluation of Bush Presidency which
reversed when focus was shifted back to the
economy (Krosnick)
Priming Issues
 Increasing attention to effects of priming on other
issues through the “spread of activation”
 Encountering moral-ethical issues changes how
people understand other issues they encounter
– Come to understand other issues in ethical terms
 Can also prime particular candidate characteristics
– Focus on issues can prime judgments of competency or
integrity, depending on the issue
Second Level Agenda-Setting
 Revised version of the theory
 Media tell us how and what to think
– Attention to particular attributes
 Sounds like framing
– “to frame is to select some aspects of a
perceived reality and make them more salient
in a communication text” - Entman
 Two broad traditions
– Sociological - Outcome of news work
• The process of news production
– Psychological - Categories of the mind
• The process of audience consumption
Framing and Cueing
 The power of language to shape thought
– Frames - broad organizing principles
• Idea used to structure a news story
• Journalistic decision
– Cues - labels and categories
• Word or phrase with rhetorical value
• Contested by elites
Framing and Cueing
 Episodic vs. Thematic frames
 Strategy vs. Policy frames
 Ethical vs. Material frames
 Individual vs. Societal frames
 Pro-life vs. anti-abortion
 Estate tax vs. death tax
 Terrorists vs. insurgents
Episodic vs. Thematic
 Iyengar, 1991
– Media tend to present social problems in
episodic terms (individual, short-term) instead
of thematic terms (collective, long-term)
– This patterns encourages audiences to attribute
responsibility for solving the problem to the
individual instead of the collective
Strategy vs. Policy
 News coverage tends to focus on the game
of politics, and the competition between
players, instead of the features of policy
– Particularly true during elections
 Leads to audience cynicism and may
contribute to the erosion of efficacy
Ethical vs. Material
 News media tend to construct issues in
terms of opposing rights / moral principles,
as opposed to economics or pragmatics
 Encourages simplified electoral decision
making and character attributions
Individual vs. Societal
 News media tend to frame issues at the
individual level, as opposed to the societal
level, due to dominant news values
 This frame distinction interacts with other
coverage elements to influence the
complexity of thought, tolerance judgments
News Norms and Frame Effects
 These dominant news norm of focusing on
specific episodes over broader themes,
political strategy over policy, matters of
principle over pragmatics, and individuals
over groups all reduce citizen competence
– What does this say about the work of
journalists? How might they change?
Frames and Cognitive Processing
 Message frames interact with:
– Audience predispositions and knowledge
– Framing effects are not uniform
• Different for different people
 Cognitive structures (schemas):
– Constellations of knowledge used to organize
processing of new info (e.g., news stories)
• Organized into associated networks of information
• Developed through past experiences, information
exposure, and social interactions
Associative Networks
 Networks of interrelated constructs
– Frames/cues activate mental constructs
 Construct activation from interconnected network
– Spread of activation through associated nodes
 Complexity of activated thoughts
– Concerned with form, as opposed to content, of memory
– Complexity as an indicator of political sophistication?
Model of Framing Effects
Source and Language Cues
 Source cues - who is making the comment?
– Conservative or Liberal
– Black or White
– Different leaders
 Language cues - what labels are used?
– Urban sprawl vs. Suburban development
– Pro-Choice vs. Abortion Advocates
– Insurgent vs. Terrorists
Powerful Cues Recast Debates
 Get in Groups of three to four:
– Pick a set of cues that has defined the debate
about a specific policy or product
– Pick a policy debate or product category and
discuss how the cues have defined this choice
 Ex. Partial Birth Abortion vs. Late Term Abortion
Frames and Cues Interact
 Organizing devices and source or language cues
work together to influence judgment
– Tolerance judgments affected by individual frame
combined with “othering” cues
 How might they work together to influence
tolerance and the desire to speak out?
 Get Back in Groups: Come up with an example of
how a news frame and elite cue might work
together to sway opinion in particular ways.
– Can stick to the cue you had in mind or pick new one