Communication Agenda Setting
by
Hans-Bernd Brosius, Alexander Haas
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0021

Introduction

The original idea of the agenda-setting (AS) function of news media is both obvious and convincing. This may have contributed to the fact that AS is one of the most frequently investigated approaches in research on mass media effects. It is based on the assumption that most people, for most issues, have only one way to learn what goes on in the world: the news media. They set the agenda and thus have the ability to influence the perceived importance of issues. In other words, AS scholars assume that increased media coverage of an issue leads to increased public perception of the importance of that issue. News media do not tell people what to think, but rather what to think about. Therefore, it should be the responsibility of the mass media to tell people what problems have to be solved and what issues should be thought about. AS focuses on the cognitive effects of mass media and can be distinguished from research on persuasive effects. Despite the large number of empirical studies, some scholars still see AS more as a metaphor than a structured theory. Its theoretical foundations are criticized for being too simple and rooted in a stimulus-response context. Since the 1990s there have been attempts to link AS to the concepts of framing and priming. Some scholars reacted to these ideas by introducing second-level AS. Such a conceptualization would extend the basic assumption of AS. That broadened concept addresses the question of not only whether news media tell their audience what to think about, but also whether they influence how people think about issues. Early-21st-century developments of online communication have confronted AS with new challenges, both theoretically and methodologically.

General Overviews

With a growing number of empirical studies, increasing attempts have been made to review the literature and systematize the field. One of the earliest sources is Rogers and Dearing 1988. This book chapter is cited especially for explaining AS as a process of interaction among the media agenda, the public agenda, and the policy agenda. Dearing and Rogers 1996 is also based on this differentiation. Kosicki 1993 focuses on methodological and theoretical shortcomings as well as future tasks. At the same time, the “founding fathers” Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw take a look at the past twenty-five years (McCombs and Shaw 1993). They also point to the need for theoretical integration. It is again McCombs who provides an essential and profound overview of the field of research (McCombs 2014). McCombs 2014 identifies new directions, particularly third-level AS and agenda melding. Takeshita 2005 offers an overview of problems in AS research that is still relevant and worth reading. Wanta and Ghanem 2007 is a meta-analysis of about ninety studies.

  • Dearing, James W., and Everett M. Rogers. 1996. Agenda-setting. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This essential textbook summarizes the field of research. It is organized along the three main components in the AS process: media agenda, public agenda (divided into cross-sectional and longitudinal studies), and policy agenda. The final chapter draws generalizations about the state of research and identifies questions to be addressed in the future.

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    • Kosicki, Gerald M. 1993. Problems and opportunities in agenda-setting research. Journal of Communication 43.2: 100–127.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01265.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This article also starts with a summary of the AS literature and elaborates characteristics of AS studies. The author criticizes the absence of a theoretical connection to a theory of news work as a key failing of public AS studies and reflects on the future of AS research.

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      • McCombs, Maxwell E. 2014. Setting the agenda: The mass media and public opinion. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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        This book is essential to everyone interested in acquiring an overview of the field of AS research. McCombs provides a comprehensive synopsis of hundreds of studies. Endnotes instead of a bibliography make it a little more difficult to take full advantage of this excellent book.

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        • McCombs, Maxwell E., and Donald L. Shaw. 1993. The evolution of agenda-setting research: Twenty-five years in the marketplace of ideas. Journal of Communication 43.2: 58–67.

          DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01262.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This brief review outlines the historical growth of AS and names four distinct phases of research. In the opening phase, scholars tried to replicate the findings of the “Chapel Hill” study. In the second phase, more studies focused on contingent conditions that enhance or limit the effect. Afterwards new domains such as candidate characteristics were analyzed. Finally, the authors focus on the sources of the media agenda.

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          • McCombs, Maxwell E., Donald L. Shaw, and David H. Weaver. 2014. New directions in agenda-setting theory and research. Mass Communication and Society 17.6: 781–802.

            DOI: 10.1080/15205436.2014.964871Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            This essay identifies seven facets of AS theory and research. Three of them, third-level AS, need for orientation, and agenda melding, are discussed in greater detail. It describes network AS as a third level of AS theory (i.e., the impact of the networked media agenda of objects or attributes on the networked public agenda).

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            • Rogers, Everett M., and James W. Dearing. 1988. Agenda-setting research: Where has it been, where is it going? In Communication yearbook 11. Edited by James A. Anderson, 555–594. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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              An extended version of this book chapter was later published as a textbook. The text is cited especially for explaining AS as a process of interaction among the media agenda, the public agenda, and the policy agenda. It is suitable for graduate students to demonstrate what the field of work looked like “at halftime.”

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              • Takeshita, Toshio. 2005. Current critical problems in agenda-setting research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 18.3: 275–296.

                DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edh104Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Addresses current problems of AS research: process, identity, and environment. Process refers to whether AS works automatically or may include deliberate judgments and inferences. Identity questions the necessity of second-level AS. Finally, new media technology could make it hard to identify AS effects or even to determine the media agenda.

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                • Wanta, Wayne, and Salma Ghanem. 2007. Effects of agenda-setting. In Mass media effects research: Advances through meta-analysis. Edited by Raymond W. Preiss, Barbara M. Gayle, Nancy Burrell, Mike Allen, and Jennings Bryant, 37–51. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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                  The authors conducted a meta-analysis of about ninety AS studies. The results show a broad impact of news media on the public agenda. The authors could not identify methodological factors that influence the strength of the effect, but longitudinal studies show larger correlations than cross-sectional studies.

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                  Foundational Works

                  Without using the label, Lippmann 1922 could be seen as a pioneering work for AS. Walter Lippmann reflected on the connection between what goes on in the world and what people think about it. Cohen 1963 became popular for discussing the power of newspapers to influence what issues people think about. In contrast, Lazarsfeld, et al. 1944 and Klapper 1960 portray news media to be rather powerless, especially in comparison to interpersonal channels. The interim phase of effects research was characterized by limited-effects models and concepts such as selective exposure. AS can be seen as a manifestation of the cognitive turn in communication science. There was a shift of perspective away from persuasion and thereby away from minimal effects of mass media. In contrast, McCombs and Shaw 1972 and Funkhouser 1973 focus on cognitive effects. Both studies mark the starting point of the empirical study of AS. McLeod, et al. 1974 shows how fast the field of research proceeded from the start.

                  • Cohen, Bernhard C. 1963. The press and foreign policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                    Many scholars quote Cohen’s book for his idea that the press may be rather successful in telling its readers what to think about, instead of telling them what to think. What people think of the world is dependent on the maps that are drawn by journalists.

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                    • Funkhouser, G. Ray. 1973. The issues of the sixties: An exploratory study in the dynamics of public opinion. Public Opinion Quarterly 37.1: 62–75.

                      DOI: 10.1086/268060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      Compared to the Chapel Hill study, this article attracted much less attention although it is clearly worth reading. Funkhouser investigates public opinion and media coverage of major issues during the 1960s in a longitudinal design, also embedding real-world indicators. Results show nearly no connection between reality indicators and news coverage, but strong influence of coverage on public opinion.

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                      • Klapper, Joseph T. 1960. The effects of mass communication. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

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                        The author evaluated hundreds of studies for this milestone book. He demonstrated that media might not be so powerful in influencing behavior but rather in reinforcing people’s predispositions. Klapper explains this with reference to concepts such as selective exposure or opinion leadership. He thus framed the basic orientation of communication science in the 1960s: the powerless mass media. AS and other theories questioned this orientation by introducing cognitive effects.

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                        • Lazarsfeld, Paul F., Bernard R. Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet. 1944. The people’s choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a presidential campaign. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                          This study on voting behavior is still well worth reading today. Lazarsfeld introduced the “panel technique” to social science. The authors conclude, on the basis of the results, that social structure rather than news media influences attitudes and opinions or voting decisions.

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                          • Lippmann, Walter. 1922. Public opinion. New York: Macmillan.

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                            This book and its opening chapter, “The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads,” influenced generations of scholars in the field of public-opinion research. It states that news media are our window on the world beyond personal experience. Therefore they have the power to influence individuals and the public agenda.

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                            • McCombs, Maxwell E., and Donald L. Shaw. 1972. The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly 36.2: 176–187.

                              DOI: 10.1086/267990Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              Being the first to use the phrase “agenda setting,” this article became one of the most often-cited pieces of work in communications. The study combines a content analysis and a survey of one hundred wavering voters. Students with at least some training in research methods will be able to identify some methodological problems and understand how the research tradition developed from this starting point.

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                              • McLeod, Jack M., Lee B. Becker, and James E. Byrnes. 1974. Another look at the agenda-setting function of the press. Communication Research 1.2: 131–166.

                                DOI: 10.1177/009365027400100201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                This thoroughly conducted study during the 1972 presidential campaign can make students with at least some training in research methods aware of the rapid development of AS research. The study of four hundred voters introduces controls and compares AS effects for readers of different newspapers.

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                                Process Components

                                The idea of AS as a process of reciprocal influence among politics, media, and the public results in nine different designs for empirical studies that examine two-sided coherences. Media agenda, public agenda, and policy agenda can be seen as the affected or affecting agenda. In many cases, the relationships between more than two agendas are examined simultaneously while one aspect is highlighted. Brosius and Weimann 1996 integrates the concept of two-step flow into AS and examines the effects among media, influentials, and the rest of the population. Roberts and McCombs 1994 and Boyle 2001 focus on intermedia AS (TV and newspapers) and include political advertising as a factor. Lang and Lang 1981 is interested in the AS process, while Edwards and Wood 1999 focuses on intrapolicy AS processes. Shaw, et al. 1999 introduces a model of agenda melding. Kiousis, et al. 2007 extends AS to public-relations research.

                                • Boyle, Thomas P. 2001. Intermedia agenda setting in the 1996 presidential election. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78.1: 26–44.

                                  DOI: 10.1177/107769900107800103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  This study searches for intermedia AS influences by analyzing political television advertisements, newspapers, and TV newscasts. Results show that the influence of campaign advertising on media agenda is limited to major-party candidates.

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                                  • Brosius, Hans-Bernd, and Gabriel Weimann. 1996. Who sets the agenda? Agenda-setting as a two-step flow. Communication Research 23.5: 561–580.

                                    DOI: 10.1177/009365096023005002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    The text provides a useful schema for the classification of AS studies. All three agendas (media, public, policy) can be seen as the affected or affecting agenda. The combination leads to nine types of studies. The study itself examines four models of a two-step flow of AS, highlighting the role of influentials in mediating between the public and the media.

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                                    • Edwards, George, C. III, and B. Dan Wood. 1999. Who influences whom? The president, Congress, and the media. American Political Science Review 93.2: 327–344.

                                      DOI: 10.2307/2585399Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      This innovative study points to the possibility that intrapolicy AS processes can also be examined. For three national and two world issues, time-series analyses of presidential, mass media, and congressional attention are conducted.

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                                      • Kiousis, Spiro, Cristina Popescu, and Michael Mitrook. 2007. Understanding influence on corporate reputation: An examination of public relations efforts, media coverage, public opinion, and financial performance from an agenda-building and agenda-setting perspective. Journal of Public Relations Research 19.2: 147–165.

                                        DOI: 10.1080/10627260701290661Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        This study provides a process model of the influence of public-relations efforts and media coverage on corporate reputation and financial performance of companies. The nexus between public relations and company performance is identified as first- and second-level agenda building and AS.

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                                        • Lang, Gladys Engel, and Kurt Lang. 1981. Watergate: An exploration of the agenda-building process. In Mass communication review yearbook. Vol. 2. Edited by G. Cleveland Wilhoit and Harold de Bock, 447–468. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

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                                          The authors conducted a case study of the Watergate scandal. They identified a four-step model of agenda building that focuses on the political and social factors influencing the media agenda.

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                                          • Roberts, Marilyn, and Maxwell McCombs. 1994. Agenda setting and political advertising: Origins of the news agenda. Political Communication 11.3: 249–262.

                                            DOI: 10.1080/10584609.1994.9963030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            The concept of intermedia AS is expanded by the authors. The study examines the direction of influence among newspapers, television, and political advertising during a gubernatorial race, by means of cross-lagged correlations. Results show an influence of advertising on the agenda of both media.

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                                            • Shaw, Donald L., Maxwell McCombs, David H. Weaver, and Bradley J. Hamm. 1999. Individuals, groups, and agenda melding: A theory of social dissonance. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 11.1: 2–24.

                                              DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/11.1.2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              The main objective of this text is the theoretical integration of AS into a more general social theory. The authors elaborate a model of agenda melding that describes the social process of joining groups as a process of joining agendas.

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                                              Information Sources

                                              There are basically three types of information sources: personal experience, interpersonal communication, and news media. Many studies use a mix of media to identify the issue agenda. Personal experiences can be measured either by asking respondents or by using real-world indicators as a proxy. Unsurprisingly, some of the most often-noticed pieces of work deal with the relationship between those three sources and issue importance. Erbring, et al. 1980 examines the influence of real-world indicators, assigning media content to every respondent individually on the basis of the combination of media use and content analysis. Behr and Iyengar 1985 offers some insights on interference between public concerns for three issues. The role of interpersonal discussion about politics in general or about a specific issue is the object of many studies; however, evidence for the impact of interpersonal talk is rather inconclusive. The question whether interpersonal talk enhances or inhibits media effects still remains unanswered. Wanta and Wu 1992 analyzes whether the effects of interpersonal talk are dependent on the amount of media coverage on an issue. Yang and Stone 2003 examines the influence that the amount of information the individual receives from interpersonal communication has on the conformity with the media agenda. Vu and Gehrau 2010 integrates interpersonal communication into the AS process. Roessler 1999 suggests that the egocentric network of respondents also deserves attention, and Weaver, et al. 1992 considers all three information sources in a study of the issue of drug abuse.

                                              • Behr, Roy L., and Shanto Iyengar. 1985. Television news, real-world cues, and changes in the public agenda. Public Opinion Quarterly 49.1: 38–57.

                                                DOI: 10.1086/268900Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                This study explores the interrelations among the three components for the issues of energy, inflation, and unemployment. The authors focus mainly on methodological aspects and data analysis. Energy and inflation news clearly influence the public agenda, while economic conditions are the reason for perceived issue salience of unemployment. Interpersonal communication is included as a possible explanation.

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                                                • Erbring, Lutz, Edie N. Goldenberg, and Arthur H. Miller. 1980. Front-page news and real-world cues: A new look at agenda-setting by the media. American Journal of Political Science 24.1: 16–49.

                                                  DOI: 10.2307/2110923Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  This sophisticated study combines measurement of newspaper content actually read by the respondents with real-world indicators and the “most important problem” (MIP) question in the 1974 National Election Study. The authors outline and find support for a so-called audience-effects model, which assumes that news coverage interacts with audiences’ sensitivities to influence issue salience.

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                                                  • Roessler, Patrick. 1999. The individual agenda-designing process: How interpersonal communication, egocentric networks, and mass media shape the perception of political issues by individuals. Communication Research 26.6: 666–700.

                                                    DOI: 10.1177/009365099026006002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    A model of individual agenda designing that takes intrapersonal, interpersonal, and media factors into account is tested. It combines a survey of nine hundred Germans and interaction partners of these interviewees, and a content analysis of media coverage. Path analysis models with individually matched independent variables (content analysis data and media use patterns) reveal the impact of issue involvement, interpersonal communication, and network partners.

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                                                    • Vu, Hong Nga Nguyen, and Volker Gehrau. 2010. Agenda diffusion: An integrated model of agenda setting and interpersonal communication. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 87.1: 100–116.

                                                      DOI: 10.1177/107769901008700106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      This study provides a process model that integrates media coverage and interpersonal communication into a two-step-flow model of AS. The media agenda, in a first step, influences the agenda of heavy media users who in turn influence the agenda of nonusers via interpersonal communication.

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                                                      • Wanta, Wayne, and Yi-Chen Wu. 1992. Interpersonal communication and the agenda-setting process. Journalism Quarterly 69.4: 847–855.

                                                        DOI: 10.1177/107769909206900405Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        The authors try to explain the contradictory findings concerning the role of interpersonal talk in the AS process. Amount of media coverage is discussed as a relevant factor. Conversations can enhance effects when issues are also covered frequently by news media. Otherwise, interpersonal communication will reduce measured effects.

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                                                        • Weaver, David H., Jian-Hua Zhu, and Lars Willnat. 1992. The bridging function of interpersonal communication in agenda-setting. Journalism Quarterly 69.4: 856–867.

                                                          DOI: 10.1177/107769909206900406Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          This study explores the influence of interpersonal conversation, as well as media and personal experience, on the perception of drug abuse as a personal or societal problem. The authors identify the “bridging” function of interpersonal communication between personal and social perception of issue salience.

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                                                          • Yang, Jin, and Gerald Stone. 2003. The powerful role of interpersonal communication in agenda setting. Mass Communication & Society 6.1: 57–74.

                                                            DOI: 10.1207/S15327825MCS0601_5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            This study examines the role of interpersonal communication in the AS process. Conformity with the media agenda is analyzed for respondents with different amounts of information from media or interpersonal channels. Surprisingly, the group relying more on interpersonal channels matches the media agenda at the same or an even-higher level.

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                                                            Influence Models

                                                            The lack of a theoretical foundation of AS has often been criticized. One aspect that certainly deserves further attention is the question of different models of influence. There are articles and books that scholars can build on. McCombs 1977 offers three basic and well-known models: the awareness, the salience, and the priorities models. Neuman 1990 suggests that there could be a threshold that public concern about an issue must exceed; this idea questions the assumption of a linear coherence between public opinion and the frequency of media coverage. Brosius and Kepplinger 1992 does not only test the validity of linear and nonlinear models for a number of issues but also proposes further models, such as the echo model. Zhu 1992 deals with the question of issue competition, analyzing whether the rise of one issue leads to certain reactions regarding other issues, and how the reactions can be modeled. Two German studies propose extensive concepts for an actual theory. Eichhorn 1996 offers a solely theoretical contribution and outlines an individual as well as a societal model of AS. Rössler 1997 combines an extensive theoretical discussion with a thorough empirical study.

                                                            • Brosius, Hans-Bernd, and Hans Mathias Kepplinger. 1992. Linear and nonlinear models of agenda-setting in television. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 36.1: 5–23.

                                                              DOI: 10.1080/08838159209364151Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              AS effects might vary not only between but also within issues. Thus, the relationship between media and public opinion might be better described by nonlinear than by linear models. The study of sixteen issues proposes different theoretical models. The results challenge the validity of the linear model that implicitly underlies most studies.

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                                                              • Eichhorn, Wolfgang. 1996. Agenda-Setting-Prozesse: Eine theoretische Analyse individueller und gesellschaftlicher Themenstrukturierung. Munich: Fischer.

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                                                                Provides a thorough and focused theoretical discussion of AS. Eichhorn outlines a model of AS on the individual level on the basis of cognitive psychology as well as a societal model. Unfortunately, no summarizing article in English has been published.

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                                                                • McCombs, Maxwell E. 1977. Newspaper versus television: Mass communication effects across time. In The emergence of American political issues: The agenda-setting function of the press. Edited by Donald L. Shaw and Maxwell E. McCombs, 89–105. St. Paul, MN: West.

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                                                                  This chapter, in a still-interesting anthology, not only presents results of a study that compares AS effects of television and newspapers. McCombs also reflects on the nature of AS and proposes three now well-known models: the awareness, salience, and priorities models.

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                                                                  • Neuman, W. Russell. 1990. The threshold of public attention. Public Opinion Quarterly 54.2: 159–176.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1086/269194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    The author addresses the interesting question of whether there is a threshold that must be exceeded so an issue can be considered “public.” He analyzes the nexus between media coverage and public attention for ten issues and time series data for the period between 1945 and 1980. No such universal threshold could be found.

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                                                                    • Rössler, Patrick. 1997. Agenda-Setting: Theoretische Annahmen und empirische Evidenzen einer Medienwirkungshypothese. Opladen, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/978-3-663-09228-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      This book is essential for German academics and graduate students for two reasons: it provides an extensive theoretical discussion of AS that leads to a complex model of the process, and the study design and the data analysis serve as examples for advanced research designs.

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                                                                      • Zhu, Jian-Hua. 1992. Issue competition and attention distraction: A zero-sum theory of agenda-setting. Journalism Quarterly 69.4: 825–836.

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                                                                        This study presents and explores the idea that different issues are opponents competing for media and public attention. It analyzes the rise and fall of three issues over an eleven-month period in 1990–1991: the federal budget deficit, the Gulf War, and economic recession in the United States. Results indicate competition as well as one-way attraction among issues.

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                                                                        News Media Types

                                                                        Early AS studies relied on only a limited number of news media to measure the media agenda. Few television stations existed, and the Internet was light years away. Research at that time sometimes contrasted the AS effects of television and newspapers. Some studies identified a “spotlighting” effect of television news. Wanta and Hu 1994 compares effects for different news media regarding time lags and the strength of the effect. As in many other fields of research, the Internet challenges AS scholars. Althaus and Tewksbury 2002 examines whether readers of online and print versions of a newspapers develop different issue agendas. Schoenbach, et al. 2005 reports the results of a similar study, conducted without employing an experimental design. Roberts, et al. 2002 addresses the potential role of electronic bulletin boards in AS, and Ku, et al. 2003 examines the influence of website campaigning on traditional media and public opinion. Conway, et al. 2015 identifies Twitter as an important component of media AS. A panel study conducted by the authors of Strömbäck and Kiousis 2010 compared the influence of overall news media consumption with the effects of media-specific news use.

                                                                        • Althaus, Scott L., and David Tewksbury. 2002. Agenda setting and the “new” news: Patterns of issue importance among readers of the paper and online versions of the New York Times. Communication Research 29.2: 180–207.

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                                                                          This week-long experimental study examines the differences between readers of a newspaper and an online version of a newspaper in their perceptions of the importance of political issues. Readers of the paper version were exposed to a broader range of public-affairs coverage and had different perceptions of relevant issues.

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                                                                          • Conway, Bethany A., Kate Kenski, and Di Wang. 2015. The rise of Twitter in the political campaign: Searching for intermedia agenda-setting effects in the presidential primary. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 20.4: 363–380.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/jcc4.12124Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            This study analyzes the symbiotic relationship between traditional media and Twitter. It found that social media contents on Twitter can influence the agenda of traditional news for some issues, while for other issues traditional news media agenda can predict the intensity of tweets.

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                                                                            • Ku, Gyotae, Lynda Lee Kaid, and Michael Pfau. 2003. The impact of web site campaigning on traditional news media and public information processing. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 80.3: 528–547.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/107769900308000304Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              This study, also useful as an example of intermedia AS, examines the influence of website campaigning (the official websites of Albert Gore and George W. Bush) on news media and public opinion during the 2000 presidential election. Study design as well as data analysis can serve as an inspiring example.

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                                                                              • Roberts, Marilyn, Wayne Wanta, and Tzong-Horng Dzwo. 2002. Agenda setting and issue salience online. Communication Research 29.4: 452–465.

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                                                                                One of the first studies that examined the potential role of the Internet (electronic bulletin boards) in AS. For three of four issues, the authors found that online discussions followed media coverage with a delay of one to seven days. The authors also make helpful comments on how to apply content analysis techniques to study Internet content.

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                                                                                • Schoenbach, Klaus, Ester de Waal, and Edmund Lauf. 2005. Online and print newspapers: Their impact on the extent of the perceived public agenda. European Journal of Communication 20.2: 245–258.

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                                                                                  Online newspapers might endanger the AS function, or at least lead to narrower issue agendas. They allow the reader to select coverage more actively according to personal preferences and interests. Results of this study indicate that education has to be taken into account. The agenda of only the most educated group was broadened by online papers.

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                                                                                  • Strömbäck, Jesper, and Spiro Kiousis. 2010. A new look at agenda-setting effects—comparing the predictive power of overall political news consumption and specific news media consumption across different media channels and media types. Journal of Communication 60.2: 271–292.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2010.01482.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    This panel study compares the influence of overall and media-specific news use on issue salience in 2006 (in Sweden). The results indicate that overall news consumption is more important than media-specific news use.

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                                                                                    • Wanta, Wayne, and Yu-Wei Hu. 1994. Time-lag differences in the agenda-setting process: An examination of five news media. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 6.3: 225–240.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/6.3.225Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      This study tried to examine the optimal time lag for AS effects to occur, by comparing different news media. The results show that the public agenda responded to TV news with a shorter time lag than to newspapers. However, while the effect of television news quickly deteriorated, newspapers had a longer-lasting AS effect.

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                                                                                      Contingent Conditions

                                                                                      By now, the number of empirical studies on AS has exceeded four hundred, yet these studies are still far from painting a congruent and convincing picture of AS effects. Most of the work trying to identify contingent conditions and their influence on AS effects focuses on examined issues or individual-level factors, especially need for information (NFO). High NFO should result in stronger AS effects. Weaver 1977 presents results supporting the positive relationship between NFO and AS effects, while. Matthes 2008 examines the role of NFO for first- and second-level AS. Coleman and McCombs 2007 offers some insights on the role that a respondent’s age might play in the process. Issues can be differentiated in terms of obtrusiveness—the possibility that individuals have direct contact with an issue in their everyday life. Demers, et al. 1989 examines the influence of issue obtrusiveness on AS effects, and Palmgreen and Clarke 1977 focuses on a similar aspect because a correlation between issue obtrusiveness and issue proximity can be expected; the authors search for differences between local and national issues. Another view is offered in Yagade and Dozier 1990, reflecting on the influence the concreteness of an issue has on AS effects. Winter 1981 and Zucker 1978 argue for the need of a model of AS that takes different contingent conditions into account; such a model is proposed by Harold Zucker.

                                                                                      • Coleman, Renita, and Maxwell McCombs. 2007. The young and agenda-less? Exploring age-related differences in agenda setting on the youngest generation, baby boomers, and the civic generation. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 84.3: 495–508.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/107769900708400306Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Examines the influence of age and therefore the influence of traditional versus Internet news use on AS. Although the study found significant differences in media use between different generations, AS effects can also be identified for young recipients and heavy Internet users.

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                                                                                        • Demers, David Pearce, Dennis Craff, Yang-Ho Choi, and Beth M. Pessin. 1989. Issue obtrusiveness and the agenda-setting effects of national network news. Communication Research 16.6: 793–812.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/009365089016006004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          This study examines whether issue obtrusiveness has an influence on AS effects of national network television news. Two models are proposed and tested: one postulates that AS effects decrease as obtrusiveness or personal experience with an issue increases; the other posits the opposite. Findings provide no support for the first model, and only some for the second.

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                                                                                          • Matthes, Jörg. 2008. Need for orientation as a predictor of agenda-setting effects: Causal evidence from a two-wave panel study. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 20.4: 440–453.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edn042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            NFO seems to enhance AS effects in general. This study examines the role of NFO for first- and second-level AS. A panel survey on the issue of unemployment shows that NFO leads to an increase in the perceived media salience but has no effect on second-level AS effects.

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                                                                                            • Palmgreen, Philip, and Peter Clarke. 1977. Agenda-setting with local and national issues. Communication Research 4.4: 435–452.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/009365027700400404Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              Examines AS effects for national and local issues. Weaker effects are expected for local issues because they are directly observable to a higher degree. Furthermore, interpersonal channels should be an alternative source of information. The study also compares effects for different types of local and national media. AS was found to be generally weaker at the local level.

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                                                                                              • Weaver, David H. 1977. Political issues and voter need for orientation. In The emergence of American political issues: The agenda-setting function of the press. Edited by Donald L. Shaw and Maxwell E. McCombs, 107–119. St. Paul, MN: West.

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                                                                                                This contribution addresses the question of why some voters expose themselves to news media more often than others. The author discusses antecedents of NFO and presents results supporting the positive relationship between NFO and AS effects.

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                                                                                                • Winter, James P. 1981. Contingent conditions in the agenda-setting process. In Mass communication review yearbook. Vol. 2. Edited by G. Cleveland Wilhoit and Harold de Bock, 235–243. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                                  In this compact chapter, the author argues for the need to consider attributes of issues (obtrusiveness, geographic proximity) and the audience (need for orientation, interpersonal discussion) in research and theory. He argues for systematic replication to clarify the effects of those contingent conditions.

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                                                                                                  • Yagade, Aileen, and David M. Dozier. 1990. The media agenda-setting effect of concrete versus abstract issues. Journalism Quarterly 67.1: 3–10.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/107769909006700102Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    This study addresses a crucial aspect in AS research that may have contributed to the sometimes confusing results of empirical research. It compares effects for concrete (drug abuse) and abstract (federal budget deficit) issues. The authors conclude that concreteness increases AS effects, whereas abstractness decreases them.

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                                                                                                    • Zucker, Harold G. 1978. The variable nature of news media influence. In Communication yearbook 2. Edited by Brent D. Ruben, 225–240. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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                                                                                                      This frequently cited text argues that the idea of news media having little influence on public opinion is based on weak theories and studies with faulty methodologies. It presents a theory of news media influence that takes into account the obtrusiveness of an issue and the amount and duration of coverage.

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                                                                                                      Consequences

                                                                                                      Concepts of the potential consequences of AS are rather heterogeneous. Some scholars conceptualize priming as an outcome of AS (see Related Concepts). Here, we focus on voting and participatory behavior as an outcome of AS. Weaver 1991 addresses the question of whether the salience of the issue of the federal budget deficit is positively correlated with related political behavior. Kiousis, et al. 2005 proposes a model that extends AS and integrates it in a broader concept of political socialization. The other cited articles also extend the concept of AS or conceptualize it as a part of some broader concept. Roberts 1992 proposes a two-step process from the transfer of salience to voting behavior, while Abbe, et al. 2003 examines influences on the actual voting decision. Sheafer and Weimann 2005 proposes a three-step model of voting intention that includes agenda building, AS, and priming. Electoral participation is also the subject of Kiousis and McDevitt 2008: results of a structural equation model offer insights in the causal relationships between issue importance and voter turnout.

                                                                                                      • Abbe, Owen G., Jay Goodliffe, Paul S. Herrnson, and Kelly D. Patterson. 2003. Agenda setting in congressional elections: The impact of issues and campaigns on voting behavior. Political Research Quarterly 56.4: 419–430.

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                                                                                                        The authors extend the concepts of issue voting and AS to voting decisions. Results of a study of the 1998 congressional elections indicate that voting for a candidate becomes more likely if the voter agrees with the candidate on what the most important issue is, and if this issue is simultaneously “owned” by the candidate’s party.

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                                                                                                        • Kiousis, Spiro, and Michael McDevitt. 2008. Agenda setting in civic development: Effects of curricula and issue importance on youth voter turnout. Communication Research 35.4: 481–502.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0093650208315978Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Examines the influence of interpersonal discussion, attention to news media, and issue importance on voter turnout. A model that incorporates AS as a process leading to electoral participation is developed and tested by means of structural equation modeling.

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                                                                                                          • Kiousis, Spiro, Michael McDevitt, and Xu Wu. 2005. The genesis of civic awareness: Agenda setting in political socialization. Journal of Communication 55.4: 756–774.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2005.tb03021.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            The authors extend AS by conceptualizing it as a component of political development. A quasi-experimental field study with adolescents was conducted to test this model. The effects of school intervention exposure, news attention, discussion, and information integration on salience, opinion strength, and finally partisanship and ideology are tested with path analysis models.

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                                                                                                            • Roberts, Marilyn S. 1992. Predicting voting behavior via the agenda-setting tradition. Journalism Quarterly 69.4: 878–892.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/107769909206900408Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              The basic idea of the ability of news media to tell their recipients what to think about is extended by the author. A so-called two-step process is explored from the transfer of salience to voting behavior. Results suggest that AS may occur in a two-step process.

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                                                                                                              • Sheafer, Tamir, and Gabriel Weimann. 2005. Agenda building, agenda setting, priming, individual voting intentions, and the aggregate results: An analysis of four Israeli elections. Journal of Communication 55.2: 347–365.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2005.tb02676.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                The authors intend to analyze the whole AS process, the process of priming effects on political parties, and the effects of priming on voting behavior. This readable exploratory study finds some evidence for priming effects as well as for priming effects on electoral behavior.

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                                                                                                                • Weaver, David 1991. Issue salience and public opinion: Are there consequences of agenda-setting? International Journal of Public Opinion Research 3.1: 53–68.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/3.1.53Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  This study examines the connections between issue salience (here, the federal budget deficit) and public knowledge, opinion, and behavior. Increased issue salience is associated with increased knowledge and stronger opinions. Likelihood of signing petitions, voting, attending meetings, and writing letters is also positively correlated.

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                                                                                                                  Study Designs

                                                                                                                  Empirical research on AS can be systematized according to whether the focus of attention lies on the entire agenda or on single issues, and whether public salience is measured on an aggregate or individual level. Furthermore, longitudinal (sometimes as a panel study) and cross-sectional studies can be distinguished. Most studies combine surveys and content analysis, but there are some experimental studies. Winter and Eyal 1981 and Gonzenbach and McGavin 1997 address the essential question of the optimal effect span in AS research. The latter also discusses different options for study design and data analysis. Iyengar, et al. 1982 demonstrates the applicability of experimental studies, while Weaver, et al. 1981 examines AS throughout an entire campaign, employing a panel study that allows for data analysis on an individual level. Ader 1995 offers the results of a longitudinal study (twenty years) on a single issue, and Tan and Weaver 2007 goes far into history (nearly sixty years) to examine the entire agenda of media, public, and policy. Shehata and Strömbäck 2013 analyzes AS effects both on aggregate and individual level. Scharkow and Vogelgesang 2011 takes Google search queries as a new indicator of the public agenda.

                                                                                                                  • Ader, Christine R. 1995. A longitudinal study of agenda setting for the issue of environmental pollution. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 72.2: 300–311.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/107769909507200204Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Worth reading for at least two reasons. A real-world indicator for environmental pollution is created by combining different measures, such as air and water pollution. The relationship among media agenda, public agenda, and real-world conditions is examined in a longitudinal design from 1970 to 1990.

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                                                                                                                    • Gonzenbach, William J., and Lee McGavin. 1997. A brief history of time: A methodological analysis of agenda setting. In Communication and democracy: Exploring the intellectual frontiers in agenda-setting theory. Edited by Maxwell McCombs, Donald L. Shaw, and David Weaver, 115–136. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                      This section is helpful for everyone trying to cope with the time-relatedness of AS. Different types of study designs and data analysis methods are discussed.

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                                                                                                                      • Iyengar, Shanto, Mark D. Peters, and Donald R. Kinder. 1982. Experimental demonstrations of the “not-so-minimal” consequences of television news programs. American Political Science Review 76.4: 848–858.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/1962976Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        This groundbreaking study (expanded in Iyengar and Kinder 1987, cited under Related Concepts) demonstrates the influence of television news on viewers’ perception of important problems on the basis of two field experiments, making a much-stronger case for causality than the usual combination of survey and content analysis. Furthermore, news programs influence the relevance of criteria that viewers apply when evaluating the presidential performance.

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                                                                                                                        • Scharkow, Michael, and Jens Vogelgesang. 2011. Measuring the public agenda using search engine queries. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 23.1: 104–113.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edq048Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          This study is one of the first to use aggregate search engine usage behavior as a proxy for the public agenda: the more often people search for certain topics, the more important the issue should be for the public.

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                                                                                                                          • Shehata, Adam, and Jesper Strömbäck. 2013. Not (yet) a new era of minimal effects: A study of agenda setting at the aggregate and individual levels. International Journal of Press/Politics 18.2: 234–255.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/1940161212473831Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            The rise of online media was accompanied by concerns that the multiplicity of contents will reduce AS among other media effects. This study shows that traditional news media still exert AS influence both on the aggregate and individual levels. However, for those who use multiple online news media these effects are diminished.

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                                                                                                                            • Tan, Yue, and David H. Weaver. 2007. Agenda-setting effects among the media, the public, and Congress, 1946–2004. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 84.4: 729–744.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/107769900708400405Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              This longitudinal study examines the mutual relationship among media, public, and policy agendas in a period of nearly sixty years. The time unit is one year. Therefore, it is able to identify long-term effects in AS.

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                                                                                                                              • Weaver, David H., Doris Graber, Maxwell McCombs, and Chaim Eyal. 1981. Media agenda-setting in a presidential election: Issues, images, and interest. New York: Praeger.

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                                                                                                                                This book documents the results of a yearlong study (nine waves) of the 1976 presidential election. The authors analyze AS effects in different phases of the campaign and for voters from different kinds of communities. The book will be helpful for everyone planning to examine AS throughout an entire campaign.

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                                                                                                                                • Winter, James P., and Chaim H. Eyal. 1981. Agenda setting for the civil rights issue. Public Opinion Quarterly 45.3: 376–383.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/268671Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  The authors reflect on the role of time span in AS research. They ask if there is an optimal effect span between media and public highlighting of an issue. For the issue of civil rights (1954–1976), this span was four to six weeks. This finding also suggests that cumulative effects rather than short-term media emphasis influence public salience.

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                                                                                                                                  Data Analysis

                                                                                                                                  Research on AS considers different types of agendas (media, public, and policy) and real-world indicators. The media agenda is usually derived by content analysis of news media coverage. The number of stories and sometimes the prominence of coverage are taken into account. Public agenda is measured by surveys—for example, policy agenda by a content analysis of party programs or the times that politicians speak about issues. Real-world indicators such as the unemployment rate are easily accessible most of the time. As in many other areas of research, data analysis techniques have advanced enormously since the preliminary studies. The cited studies provide examples of different techniques of data analysis. Sohn 1978 explains the logic of cross-lagged correlations. Hügel, et al. 1989 is an early example of the application of structural equation modeling, and Brosius and Kepplinger 1990 uses Granger causality to examine AS effects. Gonzenbach 1992 employs ARIMA time-series analysis, Wanta and Hu 1994 and Trumbo 1995 apply path models to test the authors’ hypotheses, and Guo 2012 presents an application of social network analysis to AS research.

                                                                                                                                  • Brosius, Hans-Bernd, and Hans Mathias Kepplinger. 1990. The agenda-setting function of television: Static and dynamic views. Communication Research 17.2: 183–211.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/009365090017002003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    This study compares the results of cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses for sixteen issues in Germany in 1986, on the basis of a content analysis of television news and weekly surveys on problem awareness. Static analysis reveals nearly no influence of coverage on problem awareness, while dynamic analysis does for some issues with time lags of one to three weeks.

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                                                                                                                                    • Gonzenbach, William J. 1992. A time-series analysis of the drug issue, 1985–1990: The press, the president, and public opinion. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 4.2: 126–147.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/4.2.126Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      This study employs ARIMA time-series analysis to examine the relationship of the press, the president, and public opinion. It is therefore able to analyze how the interrelationships depend on different time lags. Thus it takes into account the process character of AS.

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                                                                                                                                      • Guo, Lei. 2012. The application of social network analysis in agenda setting research: A methodological exploration. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 56.4: 616–631.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/08838151.2012.732148Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        This study uses network analysis to describe the interrelationship between objects both in the media and the public agenda. The two resulting networks can be related to each other via statistical analysis. The resulting AS process is described as third-level AS.

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                                                                                                                                        • Hügel, Rolf, Werner Degenhardt, and Hans-Jürgen Weiss. 1989. Structural equation models for the analysis of the agenda-setting process. European Journal of Communication 4.2: 191–210.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0267323189004002005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          This study tests several contingent conditions (need for orientation, interpersonal talk, and issue-specific sensitivity) simultaneously. Structural equation models (SEM) for single issues reveal differences depending on issue obtrusiveness. The short and intelligible text is one of the first to use SEM in AS research.

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                                                                                                                                          • Sohn, Ardyth Broadrick. 1978. A longitudinal analysis of local non-political agenda-setting effects. Journalism Quarterly 55.2: 325–333.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/107769907805500216Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            This article is suitable for undergraduates. The logic of cross-lagged correlations and the baseline statistics are explained in a detailed and understandable manner. A two-wave panel study (July 1974 and April 1975) was conducted. Results are interpreted by comparing the AS effect with the baseline statistic.

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                                                                                                                                            • Trumbo, Craig. 1995. Longitudinal modeling of public issues: An application of the agenda-setting process to the issue of global warming. Journalism & Mass Communication Monographs 152:1–57.

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                                                                                                                                              This long article is suitable for graduate students. It starts with a profound outline of AS. The study of the issue of global warming also considers the agenda of the science press. Data analysis by means of path analysis reveals many interesting interrelationships among media, public, policy, and science agendas in different phases.

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                                                                                                                                              • Wanta, Wayne, and Yu-Wei Hu. 1994. The effects of credibility, reliance, and exposure on media agenda-setting: A path analysis model. Journalism Quarterly 71.1: 90–98.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/107769909407100109Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                This study examines the role of audience perception of news media credibility, reliance on news media information, and exposure in the AS process. The model predicts a causal connection between these factors. Path analysis is shown to be a suitable statistical model to test the hypothesized relationships.

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                                                                                                                                                Data Archives

                                                                                                                                                Most AS studies rely on secondary data, simply because budgets normally do not allow for collecting survey data and content analysis data oneself. Several organizations and institutions collect such data on a regular basis. The advantage is that data sets are available for AS studies. The disadvantage is that one has to take what is available in terms of issues, even though for theoretical reasons other issues might be better suited for one’s study. Survey data including the AS question are collected and archived from (among others) the Canadian Opinion Research Archive, Gallup, the Roper Center, and the Eurobarometer. International comparative databases are provided by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research or the International Social Survey Programme. Data sets on the media agenda are provided by (among others) the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the Pew Research Center. Increasingly, the Internet serves as a kind of data archive, one important function of which is the storage of past user activities. Most website operators (news, fora, blogs, social media, etc.) store logfiles of their users’ activities for their own research as well as a service for users. For AS studies user navigation can be used as indicator for both the public agenda (clicking on a link as a proxy for perceived importance) and the media agenda (frequently clicked items are more visible).

                                                                                                                                                Online Communication

                                                                                                                                                The diffusion of the Internet and the corresponding emergence of different types of “new” media have stipulated dozens of studies on AS in the news media environment. The starting point was the question of whether or not AS effects still occur in multiple-media-selective-users surroundings (compare with News Media Types). More-recent studies have shed some light onto the interplay of different online and offline media in shaping the public agenda. Taken together, most of the studies describe a complicated, multidirectional, and highly dynamic relationship between different types of online and offline media. Neuman, et al. 2014 explores the potential of “big data” as a basis for AS studies. Meraz 2011; Parmelee 2014; Sayre, et al. 2010; and Wallsten 2007 analyze the AS potential of blogs, Twitter, and YouTube. Webster and Ksiazek 2012 looks into audience fragmentation with possible consequences for AS effects, and Weimann and Brosius 2016 explores theoretical and methodological challenges for AS research.

                                                                                                                                                • Meraz, Sharon. 2011. Using time series analysis to measure intermedia agenda-setting influence in traditional media and political blog networks. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 88.1: 176–194.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/107769901108800110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  This is one of the studies showing a decreasing AS effect of traditional news media. The dependent variable was the agenda of different US political blogs. One the contrary, the blogs influenced the agenda of the traditional media. The study contributes to a bidirectional relationship between traditional and new media in setting each other’s agenda.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Neuman, Russell W., Lauren Guggenheim, S. Mo Jang, and Soo Young Bae. 2014. The dynamics of public attention: Agenda-setting theory meets big data. In Special issue: Big data in communication research. Journal of Communication 64.2: 193–214.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/jcom.12088Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    This article is among the first to utilize so-called big data to identify the prominence of issues in numerous new media, such as blogs, Twitter, and the online outlets of traditional news media. The public agenda is estimated by the frequency of posts in forums and message boards. AS is described as a complex and dynamic interaction between these agendas.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Parmelee, John H. 2014. The agenda-building function of political tweets. New Media & Society 16.3: 434–450.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/1461444813487955Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      This study provides eleven qualitative interviews with political reporters and editors of US newspapers using Twitter. Twitter is regarded as first- and second-level agenda builder influencing the press.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Sayre, Ben, Leticia Bode, Dhavan Shah, Dave Wilcox, and Chirag Shah. 2010. Agenda setting in a digital age: Tracking attention to California Proposition 8 in social media, online news and conventional news. Policy & Internet 2.2: 7–32.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2202/1944-2866.1040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        This single-issue study focuses on the relationship between the agenda of YouTube as an instance of social media, Google News, and traditional newspapers. Depending on the time period, YouTube was both leading and following the agenda of the traditional media.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Wallsten, Kevin. 2007. Agenda setting and the blogosphere: An analysis of the relationship between mainstream media and political blogs. Review of Policy Research 24.6: 567–587.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-1338.2007.00300.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          Analyzing the agenda of traditional media and blogs, the study found—like many others—no unidirectional relationship between the two, but rather a complex, bidirectional relationship.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Webster, James G., and Thomas B. Ksiazek. 2012. The dynamics of audience fragmentation: Public attention in an age of digital media. Journal of Communication 62.1: 39–56.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01616.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Although not an AS study, this paper focuses on one of the central challenges of AS research; namely, audience fragmentation and its effect on AS. Network analysis of Nielsen data on television and Internet use reveals that public attention can be found across different media outlets. This can be taken as a hint that AS is not reduced to small audiences in their isolated “filter bubbles” but still is a public phenomenon.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Weimann, Gabriel, and Hans-Bernd Brosius. 2016. A new agenda for agenda-setting research in the digital era. In Political communication in the online world: Theoretical approaches and research designs. Edited by Gerhard Vowe and Philipp Henn, 26–44. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                              This overview discusses whether or not the basic assumptions of AS are still true in the current media environment. The extensive literature review reveals a mixed picture, dependent on issues and context; different media have different AS potential.

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                                                                                                                                                              Related Concepts

                                                                                                                                                              There are two concepts that are often related to AS. Some scholars would suggest labeling those as second-level AS: priming and framing. The search for the cognitive foundations of AS contributed to the concept of media priming. Iyengar and Kinder 1987 offers experimental evidence for media’s AS as well as priming effects, Iyengar and Simon 1993 examines all three kinds of effects, and Price and Tewksbury 1997 develops a theoretical model that helps one understand the cognitive mechanisms underlying the different concepts. McCombs, et al. 2000 examines the media’s priming effect on the image of political candidates and is one of the early works to subsume priming and framing under the broader concept of AS and label them as second-level AS. Scheufele 2000 points to different cognitive mechanisms and therefore argues against such conceptual shifts. In 2007 a special issue of the Journal of Communication was dedicated to AS, priming, and framing; Scheufele and Tewksbury 2007 outlines areas for comparison of the concepts and locates them in media-effects research. Dillman Carpentier 2014 analyzes the relationship between AS and priming, while Bulkow, et al. 2013 integrates AS into a dual-process model similar to those in persuasion research.

                                                                                                                                                              • Bulkow, Kristin, Juliane Urban, and Wolfgang Schweiger. 2013. The duality of agenda-setting: The role of information processing. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 25.1: 43–63.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/eds003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                This study argues that, depending on the level of involvement, AS can take two routes similar to those in persuasion models, such as elaboration likelihood and systematic and heuristic processing. It differentiates between more-thoughtful and automatic AS processes.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Dillman Carpentier, Francesca R. 2014. Agenda setting and priming effects based on information presentation: Revisiting accessibility as a mechanism explaining agenda setting and priming. Mass Communication and Society 17.4: 531–552.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/15205436.2013.816744Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  This study conducts three experiments to evaluate the importance of construct accessibility in AS and priming processes. The results show that AS cannot be reduced to a mere priming effect but rather as perceived importance.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Iyengar, Shanto, and Donald R. Kinder. 1987. News that matters: Television and American opinion. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Seminal book that presents experimental evidence (fourteen studies) to show how citizens’ perceptions of the most-important problems are shaped by the amount of coverage an issue receives in the news. Furthermore, the potential of news media to influence the standards by which individuals evaluate government or politicians is examined. The authors also introduce a name for this mechanism: “priming.”

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Iyengar, Shanto, and Adam Simon. 1993. News coverage of the Gulf crisis and public opinion: A study of agenda-setting, priming, and framing. Communication Research 20.3: 365–383.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/009365093020003002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      This important text documents the results of a study on public opinion during the Gulf crisis and war. On the basis of different data sets, the authors find support for all three types of media effects. News coverage had an influence not only on the perception of the crisis, but also on the evaluation of George H. W. Bush’s performance and the support for a military response.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • McCombs, Maxwell, Juan Pablo Llamas, Esteban Lopez-Escobar, and Federico Rey. 2000. Candidate images in Spanish elections: Second-level agenda-setting effects. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 74.4: 703–717.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/107769909707400404Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        This study analyzes the influence of newspapers, TV news, and political advertising in both media on voters’ images of political candidates. The authors expand AS to the relationship between the images of the candidates presented in the mass media and the images of the candidates among voters. Results support their idea.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Price, Vincent, and David Tewksbury. 1997. News values and public opinion: A theoretical account of media priming and framing. In Advances in persuasion. Edited by George Barnett and Franklin J. Boster, 173–212 Progress in Communication Sciences 13. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

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                                                                                                                                                                          This outstanding text, suitable for graduate students, develops a psychological model based on research on knowledge activation and use. Priming and AS are considered to be related to the accessibility of knowledge, whereas framing is seen to be related to the applicability of knowledge.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Scheufele, Dietram A. 2000. Agenda-setting, priming, and framing revisited: Another look at cognitive effects of political communication. Mass Communication and Society 3.2–3: 297–316.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1207/S15327825MCS0323_07Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            The author argues against attempts to subsume both priming and framing under the broader concept of AS on a theoretical basis. Theoretical foundations of all three concepts are discussed, and an analytic model is developed to serve as a guideline for future research.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Scheufele, Dietram A., and David Tewksbury. 2007. Framing, agenda setting, and priming: The evolution of three media effects models. In Special issue: Framing, agenda setting, & priming: Agendas for theory and research. Journal of Communication 57.1: 9–20.

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                                                                                                                                                                              The introduction to a special issue of the Journal of Communication on all three concepts provides a brief review of the effects and their bases in media-effects research. Three areas for comparison are outlined: the production of news messages, the processing of news messages by recipients, and the locus of cognitive effects.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Theoretical Growth

                                                                                                                                                                              Some scholars still do not consider AS to be a conclusive theory. There are several reasons for this position. Theoretical conceptualization and measurement of the dependent variable vary considerably among different studies. The public agenda is commonly measured by surveys in which eligible voters are asked: “What is the most important problem facing this country today?” Alternatively, respondents are asked closed-ended questions—that is, they are asked to evaluate the relevance of a given list of issues. Geer 1991 and Min, et al. 2007 explore the influence on the results of different measurements of the dependent variable. Edelstein 1993 discusses an alternative conceptualization of the criterion variable, and Kiousis 2004 offers the idea that salience might be better understood as a multidimensional construct. Walgrave and van Aelst 2006 outlines a preliminary theory of the media’s political AS power. Huck, et al. 2009 proposes the integration of perceptual phenomena into the AS process as an opportunity for better understanding the psychological mechanisms of AS.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Edelstein, Alex S. 1993. Thinking about the criterion variable in agenda-setting research. Journal of Communication 43.2: 85–99.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01264.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                One of the most frequently mentioned problems of AS is the inconsistent conceptualization of the criterion variable, which sometimes lacks a theoretical foundation. The author proposes a newly defined criterion variable (the problematic situation) as a cognitive approach to the original term “thinking about.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Geer, John G. 1991. Do open-ended questions measure “salient” issues? Public Opinion Quarterly 55.3: 360–370.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/269268Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  This short article addresses the question of whether open-ended questions are a valid indicator of people’s important concerns. The results of the study show that responses to open- and closed-ended questions depend on recent information. The findings can be seen as a validation for studies that have measured salience with open-ended questions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Huck, Inga, Oliver Quiring, and Hans-Bernd Brosius. 2009. Perceptual phenomena in the agenda setting process. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 21.2: 139–164.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edp019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    The text discusses the role of perceptual phenomena within the AS process on the basis of microlevel psychological theories. A theoretical model is outlined that differentiates between agendas on an individual level (perceived media agenda, perceived public agenda, and personal agenda). Third-person perceptions and other phenomena related to media effects are included in the theoretical model.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kiousis, Spiro. 2004. Explicating media salience: A factor analysis of New York Times issue coverage during the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Journal of Communication 54.1: 71–87.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2004.tb02614.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Discusses differences in the conceptualization of the independent variable in AS research. The traditional concept is to consider the criterion variable as a singular construct. In this article it is contrasted with a multidimensional construct consisting of attention, prominence, and relevance.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Min, Young, Salma I. Ghanem, and Dixie Evatt. 2007. Using a split-ballot survey to explore the robustness of the “MIP” question in agenda-setting research: A methodological study. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 19.2: 221–236.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edm003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        This split-ballot study addresses the question of whether different conceptualizations of the criterion variable measure issue salience in the same way. It compares public agendas measured by different versions of the “MIP” (“most important problem”) question: social versus personal reference and “problem” versus “issue.” The study found large correlations between these instances and took this as an indicator for the robustness of the MIP question.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Walgrave, Stefaan, and Peter van Aelst. 2006. The contingency of the mass media’s political agenda setting power: Toward a preliminary theory. Journal of Communication 56.1: 88–109.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00005.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          On the basis of an analytic confrontation of the sometimes contradictory results of the empirical evidence on the media’s political AS power, this ambitious and readable article outlines a preliminary theory. Political-context variables are essential to the model. Political adoption reaches from no reaction to fast substantial adoption of media issues.

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