In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Media Effects in Politics

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Early Maximal Effects Studies
  • Minimal Effects
  • Methodology
  • Content Analysis
  • Multiple Effects
  • Psychology
  • Conditions for Media Effects
  • Media Bias
  • Media and Race
  • New Media

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Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Political Science Media Effects in Politics
James Druckman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0033


Most of what citizens know about politics comes from what they learn via the media. Scholars began studying the influence of media messages on citizens’ opinions and behaviors as soon as radio became widely available in the 1920s and 1930s. The extent of media influence is of both practical and normative importance. Political campaigns hope to understand how and when communications transmitted via the media influence citizens’ opinions, and theorists study the origins and nature of citizens’ preferences as the basis of democratic government. The field of political media effects is interdisciplinary and includes political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, communication scholars, economists, anthropologists, and others.

General Overviews

As the number of studies on how media messages influence citizens’ opinions and behaviors has grown, scholars have compiled comprehensive research overviews. Some of these works, such as Ansolabehere, et al. 1993; Graber 1993; and Iyengar and McGrady 2007, explore media effects with a focus on politics and democracy more generally. Others, such as Nabi and Oliver 2009 and Preiss, et al. 2007, situate political media effects relative to other types of effects, including effects on health opinions and aggression. Emmers-Sommer and Allen 1999 and Nelson, et al. 2011 review empirical studies of media effects. Other literature focuses on the routines that determine the content of media messages. One classic example of this work is Gans 1979.

  • Ansolabehere, Stephen, Roy Behr, and Shanto Iyengar. The Media Game. New York: Macmillan, 1993.

    A textbook overview on the evolution and effects of media in American politics. This covers a wide range of topics, including media bias, media effects, and the evolution of the media industry.

  • Emmers-Sommer, Tara M., and Mike Allen. “Surveying the Effect of Media Effects.” Human Communication Research 25.4 (1999): 478–497.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.1999.tb00457.x

    A meta-analysis of media effects research published in Human Communication Research. The results provide clear evidence that media messages facilitate learning and influence attitudes that, in turn, shape behavior. The paper also highlights the moderating effects of age.

  • Gans, Herbert. Deciding What’s News. New York: Vintage, 1979.

    A seminal book that explores the routines that occur in newsrooms. It presents results from an anthropologically oriented study of major newsrooms.

  • Graber, Doris A. Mass Media and American Politics. 4th ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1993.

    A classic textbook on the role of media in American democracy. It covers a range of topics, including the historical evolution of the media.

  • Iyengar, Shanto, and Jennifer A. McGrady. Media Politics. New York: W. W. Norton, 2007.

    An exploration of how media influences politics with a focus on new media effects. Includes audiovisual resources that are useful for students.

  • Nabi, Robin L., and Mary Beth Oliver, eds. The Sage Handbook of Media Processes and Effects. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2009.

    A volume that covers a wide range of methodological and substantive issues on media influence. This includes overviews of media priming, news, advertising, and educational programming.

  • Nelson, Thomas E., Sarah M. Bryner, and Dustin M. Carnahan. “Media and Politics.” In Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science. Edited by James N. Druckman, Donald P. Green, James H. Kuklinski, and Arthur Lupia, 201–213. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    A review of experimental work on media effects in politics. Topics include agenda setting, framing, priming, and new media. Emphasis is placed on why experiments have helped advanced media effects research.

  • Preiss, Raymond W., Barbara Mae Gayle, Nancy Burrell, Mike Allen, and Jennings Bryant, eds. Mass Media Effects Research. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007.

    A comprehensive overview of how media influence attitudes and behaviors in many domains, including health, politics, children’s programming, and so on.

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