Agenda Setting Theory Essay

642 WordsFeb 9, 20143 Pages
Agenda-setting theory focuses its explanation on how news content in the media shapes the public’s beliefs about what is important in society. The first clear empirical support of this agenda-setting effect was provided by McCombs and Shaw (1972) in their analysis of the 1968 campaign for president. They found that when the media presented certain issues more saliently than others, those salient issues became the focus of the campaign. Over time, this agenda-setting research has included findings that the media also tell us what to think about; this is called second-level agenda setting. This second-level agenda-setting research has found that media messages do not just emphasize issues but they present informational elements about those issues, and those informational elements tell us what to think about the issue. Closely related to the agenda-setting theory is the spiral of silence theory, which also focuses on how the media influence public beliefs. However, the spiral of silence theory also moves into explaining how public beliefs influence public discourse. Noelle-Neumann (1974) created this theory after observing patterns of news coverage in Western Europe. In her theory, she explained that when the media avoid covering an issue, people typically will not express their beliefs on that issue even if those beliefs are very important to them. They will remain silent. Thinking that they are in the minority, they refrain from expressing their beliefs for fear of being ostracized. Then silence begets more silence, and the belief that the issue is not important gets reinforced over time. Framing theory is related to both the agenda-setting and priming theories. Framing explains how the agenda is set by the way the media frame their stories. Once a person is exposed to a media message, it is the framing of the message that determines which nodes get primed.
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