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Agenda-setting theory

Agenda-setting theory describes the ability [of the Hill, North Carolina. They examined Lippmanns idea of
news media] to inuence the salience of topics on the construction of the pictures in our heads by comparing
public agenda.[1] That is, if a news item is covered fre- the issues on the media agenda with key issues on the un-
quently and prominently, the audience will regard the is- decided voters agenda. They found evidence of agenda
sue as more important. Agenda-setting theory was for- setting by identifying that salience of the news agenda is
mally developed by Dr. Max McCombs and Dr. Don- highly correlated to that of the voters agenda.
ald Shaw in a study on the 1968 American presidential
A relatively unknown scholar named G. Ray Funkhouser
election. In the 1968 Chapel Hill study, McCombs and performed a study highly similar to McCombs and Shaws
Shaw demonstrated a strong correlation coecient (r > around exactly the same time the authors were for-
.9) between what 100 residents of Chapel Hill, North malizing the theory.[7] All three scholars - McCombs,
Carolina thought was the most important election issue Shaw, and Funkhouser - even presented their ndings
and what the local and national news media reported was at the same academic conference. Funkhousers arti-
the most important issue.[2] By comparing the salience of cle was published later than McCombs and Shaws, and
issues in news content with the publics perceptions of the Funkhouser doesn't receive as much credit as McCombs
most important election issue, McCombs and Shaw were and Shaw for discovering agenda setting. According to
able to determine the degree to which the media deter- Everett Rogers, there are two main reasons for this.[6]
mines public opinion. Since the 1968 study, published in First, Funkhouser didn't formally name the theory. Sec-
a 1972 edition of Public Opinion Quarterly, more than ond, Funkhouser didn't pursue his research much past the
400 studies have been published on the agenda-setting initial article. Rogers also suggests that Funkhouser was
function of the mass media, and the theory continues to geographically isolated at Stanford, cut o from inter-
be regarded as relevant.[3] ested researchers, whereas McCombs and Shaw had got
other people interested in agenda setting research.

1 History
2 Core assumptions and state-
The theory of agenda-setting can be traced to the rst ments
chapter of Walter Lippmann's 1922 book, Public Opin-
ion.[4] In that chapter, "The World Outside And The Pic-
tures In Our Heads," Lippmann argues that the mass me- Agenda-setting is the creation of public awareness and
dia are the principal connection between events in the concern of salient issues by the news media. Two basic
world and the images in the minds of the public. Without assumptions underlie most researches on agenda-setting:
using the term agenda-setting, Walter Lippmann was
writing about what we today would call agenda-setting. 1. the press and the media do not reect reality; they
Following Lippmann, in 1963, Bernard Cohen observed lter and shape it;
that the press may not be successful much of the time in
telling people what to think, but it is stunningly success- 2. media concentration on a few issues and subjects
ful in telling its readers what to think about. The world leads the public to perceive those issues as more im-
will look dierent to dierent people, Cohen continues, portant than other issues.
depending on the map that is drawn for them by writ-
ers, editors, and publishers of the paper they read. [5] One of the most critical aspects in the concept of an
As early as the 1960s, Cohen had expressed the idea that agenda-setting role of mass communication is the time
later led to formalization of agenda-setting theory by Mc- frame for this phenomenon. In addition, dierent media
Combs and Shaw. have dierent agenda-setting potential.
Though Maxwell McCombs already had some interest in
the eld, he was exposed to Cohens work while serving
as a faculty member at UCLA, and it was Cohens work 2.1 Three types of agenda-setting
that heavily inuenced him, and later Donald Shaw.[6]
The concept of agenda setting was launched by McCombs Rogers and Dearing[8] identify three types of agenda set-
and Shaw during the 1968 presidential election in Chapel ting:


1. public agenda setting, in which the publics agenda transfer of the media agenda to the public agenda,[16]
is the dependent variable (the traditional hypothesis) while building an agenda includes some degree of reci-
procity between the mass media and society [15] where
2. media agenda setting, in which the medias agenda both media and public agendas inuence public policy.[8]
is treated as the dependent variable (agenda build-
ing) Berkowitz has implemented a more nuanced analysis of
agenda-setting and agenda-building theories by introduc-
3. policy agenda setting, in which elite policy makers ing the terms policy agenda-setting and policy agenda-
agendas are treated as the dependent variable (po- building.[16] He argues that when scholars investigate only
litical agenda setting) the linkage between media and policymakers, it is still
appropriate to use the notion of policy agenda-setting.[16]
Mass communication research, Rogers and Dearing ar- However, when the focus is placed not only on policy-
gue, has focused a great deal on public agenda setting - makers personal agendas, but also on the broader salient
e.g., McCombs and Shaw, 1972 - and media agenda set- issues where media represent only one indicator of pub-
ting, but has largely ignored policy agenda setting, which lic sentiment, Berkowitz
suggests talking about policy
is studied primarily by political scientists. As such, the agenda-building.
authors suggest mass communication scholars pay more
attention to how the media and public agendas might in-
uence elite policy makers agendas (i.e., scholars should 3 Research on policymakers and
ask where the President or members of the U.S. Congress
get their news from and how this aects their policies). public
Writing in 2006, Walgrave and Van Aelst took up Rogers
and Dearings suggestions, creating a preliminary theory 3.1 Role of policymakers in agenda-setting
of political agenda setting, which examines factors that process
might inuence elite policy makers agendas.[9]
Some groups have a greater ease of access than others
and are thus more likely to get their demands placed on
2.2 Accessibility agenda than others.[17] For instance, policymakers have
been found to be more inuential than the overall group of
Agenda setting occurs through a cognitive process known
news sources because they often better understand jour-
as "accessibility. [10][11] Accessibility implies that the
nalists needs for reliable and predictable information and
more frequently and prominently the news media cover
their denition of newsworthiness.[16] Cobb and Elder as-
an issue, the more instances of that issue become accessi-
cribed even more importance to decision makers, claim-
ble in audiences memories. When respondents are asked
ing that in order for an issue to attain agenda status, it
what the most important problem facing the country is,
must be supported by at least some of key decision mak-
they answer with the most accessible news issue in mem-
ers as they act as guardians of the formal agenda.[17] They
ory, which is typically the issue the news media focused
also asserted that certain personages in the media can act
on the most. The agenda-setting eect is not the result of
as opinion leaders and bring media coverage to a par-
receiving one or a few messages but is due to the aggre-
ticular issue.[17] Government-aliated news sources have
gate impact of a very large number of messages, each of
higher success rates in becoming media agenda and have
which has a dierent content but all of which deal with
been found by a number of scholars to be the most fre-
the same general issue.[12] Mass-media coverage in gen-
quently appearing of sources at the local, state, and na-
eral and agenda-setting in particular also has a powerful
tional levels.[16]
impact on what individuals think that other people are
thinking,[12][13] and hence they tend to allocate more im- News sources can also provide denitions of issues, thus
portance to issues that have been extensively covered by determining the terms of future discussion and framing
mass media. This is also called schemata theory. problems in particular ways.[16][18] What interpretation of
reality will dominate public discourse has implications
for the future of the social problem, for the interest groups
2.3 Agenda-setting vs. agenda-building and policymakers involved, and for the policy itself.[18]
For example, Guseld argues that the highway deaths as-
As more scholars published articles on agenda-setting sociated with alcohol consumption can be interpreted as a
theories it became evident that the process involves not problem of irresponsible drunken drivers, insucient au-
only active role of media organizations, but also partic- tomobile crash-worthiness, a transportation system overly
ipation of the public [14][15] as well as policymakers.[16] dependent on cars, poor highway design, excessive em-
Rogers and Dearing described the dierence between phasis on drinking in adult social life.[19] Dierent ways
agenda-setting and agenda-building based on the domi- of framing the situation may compete to be accepted as an
nant role of media or public. Thus setting an agenda authoritative version of reality,[18] consequently spurring
refers to the eect of the media agenda on society,[8] competition between sources of information for deni-

tion of an issue. Very powerful resources of information verse agenda-setting in his recent textbook as a situation
can even inuence whether an issue receives media atten- where public concern sets the media agenda.
tion at all.[20] According to Kim and Lee,[22] agenda-building through
The relationship of media and policymakers is symbi- the Internet take the following three steps: 1) Internet-
otic and is controlled by shared culture of unocial set mediated agenda-rippling: an anonymous netizens opin-
of ground rules as journalists need access to ocial in- ion spreads to the important agenda in the Internet
formation and policymakers need media coverage; nev- through online main rippling channels such as blogs, per-
ertheless the needs of journalists and policymakers are sonal homepages, and the Internet bulletin boards. 2)
often incompatible because of their dierent orientation agenda diusion in the Internet: online news or web-
in time as powerful sources are at their best in routine sites report the important agenda in the Internet that
situations and react more slowly when crisis or disaster in turn leads to spreading the agenda to more online
occur.[8][16] Consequently, policymakers who understand publics. 3) Internet-mediated reversed agenda-setting:
the rules of this culture the best will be most capable of traditional media report online agenda to the public so
setting their agendas and issue denitions.[16] On the other that the agenda spread to both oine and online publics.
hand, media also inuence policymakers when govern- However, scholars concluded that the Internet-mediated
ment ocials and politicians take the amount of media agenda-setting or agenda-building processes not always
attention given to an issue as an indirect expression of occur in consecutive order. For example, the agenda that
public interest in the issue.[8] was reported by traditional media can come to the fore
again through the online discussion or the three steps can
occur simultaneously in a short period of time.
3.2 Role of public in agenda-building pro-
Several studies provide evidence that the Internet-
community, particularly bloggers, can push their own
agenda into public agenda, then media agenda, and, even-
The agenda-building perspective ascribes importance not
tually, into policy agenda. In the most comprehensive
only to mass media and policymakers, but also to social
study to date, Wallsten [25] tracked mainstream media
process, to mutually interdependent relation between the
coverage and blog discussion of 35 issues during the 2004
concerns generated in social environment and the vitality
presidential campaign. Using time-series analysis, Wall-
of governmental process. Thus according to Cobb and
sten found evidence that journalists discuss the issues
Elder, the agenda-building framework makes allowances
that bloggers are blogging about. There are also anec-
for continuing mass involvement and broaden the range
dotal pieces of evidence suggesting bloggers exert an in-
of recognized inuences on the public policy-making
uence on the political agenda. For instance, in 2005 Ea-
son Jordan, the chief news executive at CNN, abruptly
This idea of mass involvement has become more promi- resigned after being besieged by the online community
nent with the advent of the Internet and its potential to after saying, according to various witnesses, that he be-
make everyone a pamphleteer.[21] Increase in the role of lieved the United States military had aimed at journal-
citizens in agenda setting sheds light on a new direction ists in Iraq and killed 12 of them.[26] Similarly, in 2002,
in the traditional agenda-building research. Trent Lott had to resign as Senate majority leader due
Kim and Lee [22] noted that the agenda-setting research to his inappropriate racist remarks that were widely dis-
on the Internet diers from traditional agenda-setting re- cussed in the blogosphere.[21] However bloggers attract
search with respect that the Internet is in competition with attention not only to oust journalists and politicians. An
traditional media and has enormous capacity for con- online investigation on technical problems with electronic
tents and users interactivity. Lee, Lancendorfer and Lee voting machines started by an activist Bev Harris in 2003
argued that various opinions about public issues are eventually forced traditional media outlets to address is-
posted on the Internet bulletin boards or the Usenet news- sue of electronic voting malperformance. This in turn
group by Netizens, and the opinions then form an agenda made Diebold, a company that produces these machines,
in which other Netizens can perceive the salient issue. to acknowledge its fault and take measures to x it.[21]
Scholars also stated that the Internet plays role in form-
ing Internet users opinion as well as the public space.
Kim and Lee [22] studied the pattern of the Internet
4 Contingency Factors
mediated agenda-setting by conducting a case study of
10 cases that have a great ripple eect in Korea for 5 4.1 Issue obtrusiveness
years (from 2000 until 2005). Scholars found that a per-
sons opinion could be disseminated through various on- In an attempt to overcome mirror-image eects of
line channels and could synthesize public opinion that in- agenda-setting that implied direct inuence of media
uences news coverage. Their study suggests 'reversed agenda on the audience, several scholars proposed that
agenda eects, meaning that public agenda could set me- the model of agenda-setting should include individ-
dia agenda. Maxwell McCombs [24] also mentioned re- ual/collective audience characteristics or real-world con-

ditions that are likely to aect issue importance. They cues and background information.
discovered that certain individual and group character- Two concepts: relevance and uncertainty, dene an indi-
istics are likely to act as contingent conditions of media viduals need for orientation. Relevance suggests that an
impact and proposed a model of audience eects.[14] individual will not seek news media information if an is-
According to the audience-eects model, media cov- sue is not personally relevant. Hence, if relevance is low,
erage interacts with the audiences pre-existing sensi- people will feel the need for less orientation. There are
tivities to produce changes in issue concerns. Thus, many issues in our country that are just not relevant to
media eects are contingent on issue-specic audience people, because they do not aect us. Many news orga-
characteristics.[14] For instance, for high-sensitivity au- nizations attempt to frame issues in a way that attempts
diences who are most aected by a certain issue or a to make them relevant to its audiences. This is their way
problem, the salience of this issue increases substantially of keeping their viewership/readership high. Level of
with news exposure, while the same exposure has little uncertainty is the second dening condition of need for
eect on other groups. Erbring, Goldenberg and Miller orientation. Frequently, individuals already have all the
have also demonstrated that people who do not talk about information that they desire about a topic. Their degree
political issues are more subject to agenda-setting inu- of uncertainty is low.[29] When issues are of high per-
ence because they depend more heavily on media content sonal relevance and uncertainty low, the need to moni-
than those who receive information from other sources, tor any changes in those issues will be present and there
including their colleagues and friends.[14] will be a moderate the need for orientation. If at any
Another factor that causes variations in the correlation point in time viewers/readers have high relevance and
between the media and public agenda is whether an is- high uncertainty about any type of issue/event/election
sue is obtrusive or unobtrusive";[8] i.e., whether it has campaign there was a high need for orientation.
a high or low issue threshold.[15] Obtrusive or issues with David Weaver (1977)[30] adapted the concept of indi-
low threshold are generally the ones that aect nearly ev- viduals need for orientation dened regarding relevance
eryone and with which we can have some kind of personal and uncertainty. Research done by Weaver in 1977 sug-
experience (e.g. city-wide crime or increases in gasoline gested that individuals vary on their need for orientation.
prices). Because of their link to personal concerns, these Need for orientation is a combination of the individuals
issues almost compel attention from political elites as well interest in the topic and uncertainty about the issue. The
as the news media. Moreover, with this type of issues the higher levels of interest and uncertainty produce higher
problem would be of general concern even without atten- levels of need for orientation. So the individual would be
tion from the news media.[27] considerably likely to be inuenced by the media stories
Unobtrusive or high threshold issues are those issues that (psychological aspect of theory).
are generally remote from just about everyone (e.g., high- Schonbach and Weaver (1985) focused on need for ori-
level wrongdoing, such as the Watergate scandal; plight entation showed the strongest agenda-setting eects at a
of Syrian refugees). Research performed by Zucker sug- moderate need for orientation(under conditions of low in-
gests that an issue is obtrusive if most members of the terest and high uncertainty).[32]
public have had direct contact with it, and less obtrusive if
audience members have not had direct experience. This
means that the less direct experience people have with an
issue, the greater is the news medias inuence on public
5 Theory development
opinion on that issue
Moreover, unobtrusive or high-threshold issues do not 5.1 Second-level Agenda-setting: At-
pertain into media agenda as quickly as obtrusive issues tribute Agenda Setting
and therefore require a buildup, which is a function of
more than the amount of space or time the media devote As agenda-setting theory has been developed, scholars
to the story. The latter may push the story past the thresh- pointed out attributes that describe the object. Each of
old of inattention, but it is also important to look at the the objects on an agenda has a lot of attributes containing
kind of coverage to explain how a certain incident be- cognitive components such as information that describes
comes an issue.[15] characteristics of the object, and an aective component
including tones (positive, negative, neutral) of the char-
acteristics on agenda.
4.2 Need for orientation
Agenda-setting studies typically show variability in the 5.1.1 Second-level Agenda-setting vs. Framing
correlation between media and public agenda. To explain
dierences in the correlation, McCombs and colleagues McCombs et al. (1998)[33] demonstrated that agenda-
created the concept of need for orientation, which de- setting research at the second level deals with the inu-
scribes individual dierences in the desire for orienting ence of 'attribute' salience, whereas the rst level agenda-
5.1 Second-level Agenda-setting: Attribute Agenda Setting 5

setting illustrates the inuence of 'issue' salience. Bal- that deal with message construction rather than media ef-
mas and Sheafer (2010)[34] argued that the focus at the fects, frame building is more concerned with the news
rst level agenda-setting which emphasizes medias role production process than agenda building. In other words,
in telling us what to think about is shifted to medias how forces and groups in society try to shape public dis-
function of telling us how to think about at the sec- course about an issue by establishing predominant labels
ond level agenda-setting. The second level of agenda- is of far greater interest from a framing perspective than
setting considers how the agenda of attributes aects from a traditional agenda-setting one.
public opinion (McCombs & Evatt, 1995). Further- 3. News processing: For framing and agenda-setting,
more, Ghanem(1997)[35] demonstrated that the certain
dierent conditions seem to be needed in processing
attributes agendas in the news with low psychological dis- messages to produce respective eects. Framing eect
tance, drove compelling arguments for the salience of
is more concerned with audience attention to news mes-
public agenda. The second-level agenda-setting diers sages, while agenda setting is more concerned with re-
from traditional agenda-setting in that it focus on attribute
peated exposure to messages.
salience, and publics attribute agenda is regarded as one
of the important variables. 4. Locus of eect: Agenda-setting eects are deter-
mined by the ease with which people can retrieve from
There is a debate over whether framing theory should be their memory issues recently covered by mass media,
subsumed within agenda-setting as second-level agenda- while framing is the extent to which media messages t
setting. McCombs, Shaw, Weaver and colleagues gen- ideas or knowledge people have in their knowledge store.
erally argue that framing is a part of agenda-setting that
operates as a second-level or secondary eect. Dietram Based on these shared characteristics, McCombs and
Schefuele has argued the opposite. Scheufele argues that colleagues recently argued that framing eects should
framing and agenda-setting possess distinct theoretical be seen as the extension of agenda setting. In other words,
boundaries, operate via distinct cognitive processes (ac- according to them, the premise that framing is about se-
cessibility vs. attribution), and relate to dierent out- lecting a restricted number of thematically related at-
comes (perceptions of issue importance vs. interpretation tributes for media representation can be understood
of news issue). [36] as the process of transferring the salience of issue at-
tributes (i.e., second-level agenda setting). That is, ac-
According to Weaver,[37] framing and second-level cording to McCombs and colleagues arguments, framing
agenda setting have the following characteristics:
falls under the umbrella of agenda setting.
1. Both are more concerned with how issues or other ob-
jects are depicted in the media than with which issues or 5.1.2 Accessibility (Agenda-setting) vs. Applicabil-
objects are more or less prominently reported. ity (Framing)
2. Both focus on most salient or prominent aspects of
themes or descriptions of the objects of interest. According to Price and Tewksbury,[41] however, agenda-
setting and framing are built on dierent theoretical
3. Both are concerned with ways of thinking rather than premises: agenda-setting is based on accessibility, while
objects of thinking framing is concerned with applicability (i.e., the rele-
Dierences: vance between message features and ones stored ideas or
knowledge). Accessibility-based explanation of agenda-
1. Framing does seem to include a broader range of cog- setting is also applied to second-level agenda-setting.
nitive processes moral evaluations, causal reasoning, That is, transferring the salience of issue attributes (i.e.,
appeals to principle, and recommendations for treatment second-level agenda-setting) is a function of accessibility.
of problems than does second-level agenda-setting (the
salience of attributes of an object) For framing eects, empirical evidence shows that the
impact of frames on public perceptions is mainly deter-
Scheufele and Tewksbury argue that framing diers mined by perceived importance of specic frames rather
signicantly from these accessibility-based models [i.e., than by the quickness of retrieving frames.[42] That is,
agenda setting and priming]. It is based on the as- the way framing eects transpires is dierent from the
sumption that how an issue is characterized in news re- way second-level agenda-setting is supposed to take place
ports can have an inuence on how it is understood by (i.e., accessibility). On a related note, Scheufele and
audiences;"[38] the dierence between whether we think Tewksbury [38] argues that, because accessibility and ap-
about an issue and how we think about it. Framing and plicability vary in their functions of media eects, the
agenda setting dier in their functions in the process of distinction between accessibility and applicability eects
news production, information processing and media has obvious benets for understanding and predicting the
eects. eects of dynamic information environments.
2. News production: Although both frame building Taken together, it can be concluded that the integration of
and agenda building refer to macroscopic mechanisms framing into agenda-setting is either impossible because

they are based on dierent theoretical premises or impru- invoking interpretive cues that correspond to the individ-
dent because merging the two concepts would result in the uals pre-existing schema (Scheufele, 2000). Also, fram-
loss of our capabilities to explain various media eects. ing is when these interpretive cues correspond with or ac-
(a) Accessibility (Agenda-setting) tivate individuals pre-existing cognitive schema (Kim et
al., 2002). Applicability, in this regard, refers to nd-
Increasing attention has been devoted to examining how ing the connection between the message in the media and
agenda-setting occur in terms of their psychological the framework individuals employ to interpret the issue
mechanisms (Holbrook & Hill, 2005). Price and Tewks- (Scheufele & Tewksbury, 2007).
bury (1997) argued that agenda-setting eects are based
on the accessibility model of information processing. Ac- Kim and his colleagues (2002) provide distinction be-
cessibility can be dened as how much or how re- tween the applicability and accessibility models is impor-
cently a person has been exposed to certain issues (Kim tant in terms of issue salience. Framing assumes that each
et al., 2002). Specically, individuals try to make less individual will have its own interpretation of an issue, re-
cognitive eort in forming social judgments, they are gardless of the salience of an issue. Specically, it fo-
more likely to rely on the information that is easily acces- cuses on the terminological or semantic dierences of
sible (Higgins, 1996). This leads to a greater probability how an issue is described. Agenda-setting, on the other
that more accessible information will be used when peo- hand, assume that only salient issues in the media will be-
ple make judgments on certain issues (Iyeanger & Kinder, come accessible in peoples minds when they evaluate or
1987; Scheufele & Tewksbury, 2007). make judgments on the issue. Taken together, the acces-
sibility of issue salience makes the two models of infor-
The concept of accessibility is the foundation of a mation processing dierent (Scheufele, 2000).
memory-based model (Scheufele, 2000). It assumes that
individuals make judgments on the issues based on in-
formation that is easily available and retrievable from
their memory (Tulving & Watkins, 1975; Hastie & Park, 5.1.3 An Emotion Dimension
1986; Iyengar, 1990). Tversky and Kahneman (1974)
also argue that the formation of individuals judgments According to the Theory of Aective Intelligence, emo-
directly correlates with the ease in which instances or tions enhance citizen rationality. It argues that emotions,
associations could be brought to mind (p. 208). When particularly negative ones, are crucial in having people
individuals receive and process information, they develop pay attention to politics and help shape their political
memory traces that can be easily recalled to make deci- views.[43] Based on that, Renita Coleman and H. Denis
sions on a certain issue. Agenda-setting, in this regard, Wu (2010)[44] study whether the TV portrayals of candi-
can make certain issue to be easily accessed in individ- dates impacts peoples political judgment during the 2004
uals memory when forming judgment about the issue. U.S. presidential Election. They nd that apart from the
(b) Applicability (Framing) cognitive assessment - which is commonly studied before,
emotion is another critical dimension of the Second-level
Framing focuses on the applicability of individuals aects in Agenda-setting. Three conclusions are pre-
pre-existing cognitive schema, which is dierent from sented:
agenda-setting and priming (Schefuele, 2000; Kim et al.,
2002). Framing is the process of selecting certain as-
pects of an issue to bring peoples attention and to lead The medias emotional-aective agenda corresponds
them a particular line of interpretation (Entman, 1993; with the publics emotional impressions of candi-
Scheufele, 1999). Also, the medias selective uses of cer- dates;
tain frames can aect the way the audience thinks about
the issue (Oh & Kim, 2010). This may sound similar
to attribute agenda-setting. Both seem to examine which Negative emotions are more powerful than positive
attributes or aspects of an issue are emphasized in the emotions;
media (Kim et al., 2011). Some scholars even argue that
framing should be considered as an extension of agenda- Agenda-setting eects are greater on the audiences
setting (McCombs, 1997). emotions than on their cognitive assessments of
However, framing is based on the applicability model, character traits.
which is conceptually dierent from the accessibility
model used in agenda-setting. According to Goman
(1974), individuals actively classify and interpret their
life experiences to make sense of the world around them. 5.2 Agenda setting between media and
These classications and interpretations then become other sources
the individuals pre-existing and long-standing schema.
Framing inuences how audience thinks about issues, not Recent research on agenda-setting digs into the question
by making certain aspects more salient than others, but by of who sets the media agenda.[45]
6.1 Non-political application 7

5.2.1 Power relations between media and other 6.1 Non-political application
McCombs and Shaw originally established agenda-setting
Littlejohn and Foss (2011)[46] suggest that there are within the context of a presidential election. Many subse-
four types of power relations between media and other quent studies have looked at agenda setting in the context
sources: of an election or in otherwise political contexts. However,
more recently scholars have been studying agenda setting
High-power source & high-power media: both are in the context of brand community. A brand is dened
equals in setting the agenda as what resides in the minds of individuals about a prod-
High-power source & low-power media: the source uct or service. Brand community is described as a spe-
sets the agenda for the media cialized, non-geographically bound community based on
a structured set of social relations among admirers of a
Low-power source & high-power media: the media brand.[52] " Under these denitions more than just mate-
set their own agenda and may marginalize the source rial products can qualify as a brand, political candidates
or even celebrities could be viewed as a brand as well.
Low-power source & low-power media: both are
The theory can also be applied to commercial advertising,
too weak to set the public agenda
business news and corporate reputation,[53] business inu-
ence on federal policy,[54] legal systems, trials,[55] roles
5.2.2 Intermedia agenda setting of social groups, audience control, public opinion, and
public relations.
News organizations aect one anothers agendas. Mc-
Combs and Bell (1996)[47] observe that journalists live in Agenda-setting in business communication. The
an ambiguous social world so that they will rely on one central theoretical idea of agenda-setting theory ts
another for conrmation and as a source of ideas. Lim well in the world of business communication as well
(2011)[48] nds that the major news websites in South Ko- as political communication setting. In the case of
rea inuence the agendas of online newspapers and also corporate reputations, only the operational deni-
inuence each other to some extent. tions of the objects and attributes on these agendas
According to McCombs and Funk (2011), intermedia are changed to frame ve key theoretical proposi-
agenda setting is a new path of the future agenda setting tions about the inuence of news coverage on cor-
research. porate reputations among the public. This pre-
sentation of ve basic propositions oers a theo-
retical roadmap for systematic empirical research
5.3 Third-level Agenda-setting: Network into the inuence of the mass media on corporate
Agenda Setting Model reputations[56]
Agenda-setting in advertising. Ghorpade demon-
The most recent agenda-setting studies explore the ex-
strated medias agenda-setting can go beyond the
tent to which the news media can transfer the salience of
transfer of silence to the eect of intended behav-
relationships among a set of elements to the public.[50]
ior and is thus relevant to advertising.[57]
That is, researchers assume that the media can not only
inuence the salience of certain topics in public agenda, Agenda-setting in interpersonal communica-
but they can also inuence how the public relate these tion. Although agenda-setting theory is related to
topics to one another. Based on that, Guo, Vu and Mc- mass communication theory, it can be applied to
Combs (2012)[51] bring up a new theoretical model called interpersonal communication as well. Yang and
Network Agenda Setting Model, which they refer to as Stone investigated people who prefer to interper-
the Third-level Agenda-setting. This model shows that sonal communication have the same agenda as oth-
the news media can bundle sets of objects or attributes ers who rely on mass media. According to them, the
and make these bundles of elements salient in the pub- public agenda suggested by media can ow through
lics mind simultaneously. In other words, elements in interpersonal communication as well.[58]
peoples mind are not linear as traditional approaches in-
dicate; instead, they are interconnected with each other Agenda-setting in crime. Agenda-setting can be
to make a network-like structure in ones mind; and if the connected to cultivation theory. Lowry et al. con-
news media always mention two elements together, the ducted a longitudinal study and revealed that net-
audience will perceive these two elements as intercon- work TV news covering crimes often made the pub-
nected. lic not only concentrate on criminal cases but also
tremble with fear.[59]
Agenda-setting in health communication. Ogata
6 Application of the theory Jones, Denham and Springston (2006) studied the
mass and interpersonal communication on breast

cancer screening practice and found that mass me- Traditional media such as newspapers and broadcast tele-
dia is essential in setting an agenda for proactive vision are vertical media in which authority, power and
health behaviors. Women who were directly or in- inuence come from the top and ow down to the
directly exposed to news articles about breast can- public. Nowadays vertical media is undergoing rapid de-
cer tended to conduct more frequent screenings than cline with the growing of horizontal media"new media
those hadn't read such articles.[60] enables everyone to become a source of information and
inuence, which means the media is distributed horizon-
tally instead of top-down.[68]
6.2 Application to various countries

Europe: Agenda-setting theory is applicable to 8.2 Agenda-melding

other countries as well. In Europe, agenda-setting
theory has been applied in similar pattern as in Another change of Agenda-setting Theory is known as
the United States.[61][62] McCombs and Maxwell agenda-melding, which focuses on the personal agen-
also investigated agenda-setting theory in the con- das of individuals vis--vis their community and group
text of the 1995 regional and municipal elections in aliations.[52] This means that individuals join groups
Spain.[63] and blend their agendas with the agendas of the group.
Then groups and communities represent a collected
China: Guoliang, Shao and Bowman examined that agenda of issues and one joins a group by adopting an
agenda-setting eect in China is not as strong as in agenda. On the other hand, agenda setting denes groups
the Western world. They provided empirical evi- as collections of people based on some shared values,
dences in political and media structure in China.[64] attitudes, or opinions that individuals join.[52] This is
dierent from traditional agenda setting because accord-
ing to Shaw et al. individuals join groups in order to
avoid social dissonance and isolation that is also known
7 Contributions as need for orientation.[52] Therefore in the past in or-
der to belong people would learn and adopt the agenda of
Since the Chapel Hill study, a great deal of research has the group. Now with the ease of access to media, people
been carried out to discover the agenda-setting inuence form their own agendas and then nd groups that have
of the news media. The theory has not been limited similar agendas that they agree with.
to elections, and many scholars constantly explored the
The advances in technology have made agenda melding
agenda-setting eect in a variety of communication situ-
easy for people to develop because there is a wide range
ations. This explains that agenda-setting has a theoretical
of groups and individual agendas. The Internet makes
value which is able to synthesize social phenomena and
it possible for people all around the globe to nd others
to build new research questions.
with similar agendas and collaborate with them. In the
Another contribution of agenda-setting is to show the past agenda setting was limited to general topics and it
power of media. Since the study of 1950 presidential was geographically bound because travel was limited.[52]
election in Erie County, Ohio, by Paul Lazarsfeld and his
colleagues, little evidence of mass communication eects
was found over the next twenty years. In 1960, Joseph
Klappers Eects of Mass Communication also declared
9 Critique
the limited eect of media. Agenda-setting caused a
paradigm shift in the study of media eects from per- Various critiques have been made of agenda-setting the-
suasion to informing by connecting media content and its ory:
eects on the public.
Agenda setting is an inherently causal theory, but
few studies establish the hypothesized temporal or-
8 Future of agenda-setting theory der (the media should set the publics agenda).

The measurement of the dependent variable was

8.1 Advent of the Internet originally conceptualized as the publics perceived
issue salience, but subsequent studies have con-
The advent of the Internet and social networks give rise ceptualized the dependent variable as awareness, at-
to a variety of opinions concerning agenda-setting eects tention, or concern, leading to diering outcomes.
online. Some have claimed that the power of traditional
media has been weakened.[65][66] Others think that the Studies tend to aggregate media content categories
agenda-setting process and its role have continued on the and public responses into very broad categories, re-
Internet, specically in electronic bulletin boards.[67] sulting in inated correlation coecients.[8]

The theory seemed to imply that the audience takes [5] Cohen, B (1963). The press and foreign policy. New
generally passive position. However, the public is York: Harcourt.
not as passive as the theory assumed. Theorist
[6] Rogers, E (1993). The anatomy of agenda-setting re-
John Fiske has challenged the view of a passive
search. Journal of Communication 43 (2): 6884.
audience.[69] doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01263.x.

[7] Funkhouser, G (1973). The issues of the sixties: An ex-

10 See also ploratory study in the dynamics of public opinion. Public
Opinion Quarterly 37 (1): 6275. doi:10.1086/268060.

Availability heuristic [8] Rogers, E; Dearing, J (1988). Agenda-setting research:

Where has it been, where is it going?". Communication
Business communication Yearbook 11: 555594.
Cultivation theory [9] Walgrave, S; Van Aelst, P (2006). The contingency of
the mass medias political agenda setting power: Toward
Digital journalism a preliminary theory. Journal of Communication 56: 88
Framing eect 109. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00005.x.

[10] Iyengar, S; Kinder, D (1987). News that mattes: Televi-

Hypodermic needle model
sion and American opinion. Chicago, IL: University of
Intertrial priming Chicago Press.

Marketing [11] Iyengar, S (1990). The accessibility bias in poli-

tics: Television news and public opinion. Interna-
Mass hysteria tional Journal of Public Opinion Research 2: 115.
Militaryindustrialmedia complex
[12] Dearing, J; Rogers, E (1988). Agenda-setting research:
News values Where has it been, where is it going?". Communication
Yearbook 11: 555594.
Overton window
[13] Noelle-Neumann, E (1977). Turbulances in the climate
Policy by press release of opinion:Methodological applications of the spiral of si-
lence theory. Public Opinion Quarterly 41 (2): 143158.
Political agenda doi:10.1086/268371.
Politico-media complex [14] Erbring, L; Goldenberg, E.N.; Miller, A.H. (1980).
Front-page news and real-world cues: A new look at
Racial bias in criminal news
agenda-setting by the media.. American Journal of Polit-
Schema ical Science 24: 1649. doi:10.2307/2110923.

Sensationalism [15] Lang, G.E.; Lang, K. (1981). Wilhout, G.C.; de Bock, H.,
eds. Watergate: An exploration of the agenda-building
Sociology process. Mass Communication Review Yearbook (Beverly
Hills, CA: Sage) 2: 447468.
[16] Berkowitz, D (1992). Kennamer, J.D., ed. Who sets the
media agenda? The ability of policymakers to determine
news decisions.. Public opinion, the press, and public pol-
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[39] McCombs, M. E., Shaw, D. L., & Weaver, D. H. (1997).
[25] Wallsten, Kevin (2007). Agenda setting and the blogo- Communication and democracy: Explorining the intellec-
sphere: An analysis of the relationship between main- tual frontiers in agenda-setting theory. Mahwah, NJ: Erl-
stream media and political blogs, Review of Policy Re- baum.
[40] McCombs, M. E., Shaw, D. L., & Weaver, D. H. (1997).
p. 106
[26] Seelye, K.Q. (14 February 2005). Resignation at CNN
shows the growing inuence of blogs. The New York [41] Price, V., & Tewksbury, D. (1997). News values and pub-
Times. Retrieved 30 October 2014. lic opinion: A theoretical account of media priming and
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eds. Watergate: An exploration of the agenda-building Ablex Pub. Corp.
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ing of a civil liberties conict and its eect on toler-
[28] Zucker, H (1978). The variable nature of news media ance. American Political Science Review 91 (3): 567
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[43] Marcus, George E.; Neuman, W. Russel; MacKuen,

[29] Mccombs, (2004) p. 55
Michael (2000). Aective Intelligence and Political Judg-
ment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-
[30] al.], Donald L. Shaw, Maxwell E. McCombs ; in associa-
tion with Lee B. Becker ... [et (1977). The emergence of
American political issues : the agenda-setting function of [44] Coleman, Renita; Wu, H. Denis (Summer 2010).
the press (1. repr. ed.). St. Paul: West Pub. Co. ISBN Proposing Emotion as a Dimension of Aective Agenda
0-8299-0142-6. Setting: Separating Aect into Two Components and
Comparing Their Second-Level Eects. Journal-
[31] Weaver, D (1977). Political issues and voter need for ism & Mass Communication Quarterly 87: 315327.
orientation. In D.L. Shaw and M.E. McCombs (Eds.), The doi:10.1177/107769901008700206.
emergence of American public issues: 107120.
[45] West, Richard; Turner, Lynn H. (2013). Introducing
[32] Perlo, edited by Sidney Kraus, Richard M. (1985). Mass Communication Theory: Analysis and Application (5th
media and political thought : an information-processing ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. pp. 377
approach (1. print. ed.). Beverly Hills: Sage Publica- 378.
tions. ISBN 0-8039-2516-6.
[46] Littlejohn, Stephen W.; Foss, Karen A. (2010). Theories
[33] McCombs, M. E.; Llamas, J. P.; Lopez-Excobar, E.,; of Human Communication (10th ed.). Long Grove, IL:
Rey, F. (1998). Candidates images in Spanish elec- Waveland Press, Inc.
tions: Second-level agenda-setting eects. Journal- [47] McCombs, Maxwell; Bell, Tamara, The agenda-setting
ism & Mass Communication Quarterly 74 (4): 703717. role of mass communication, An integrated approach
doi:10.1177/107769909707400404. to communication theory and research, Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 93110
[34] Balmas, M; Sheafer, T (June 2010). Candidate Image
in Election Campaigns: Attribute Agenda Setting, Af- [48] Lim, Jeongsub (2011). First-Level and Second-Level
fective Priming, and Voting Intentions. International Intermedia Agenda-Setting among Major News Web-
journal of public opinion research 22 (2): 204229. sites. Asian Journal of Communication 21 (2): 167185.
doi:10.1093/ijpor/edq009. doi:10.1080/01292986.2010.539300.
11.1 Further reading 11

[49] McCombs, Maxwell; Funk, Marcus (2011). Shaping [61] Peters, B. Guy (June 1994). Agendasetting in
the Agenda of Local Daily Newspapers: A Methodology the European community. Journal of European
Merging the Agenda Setting and Community Structure Public Policy (Taylor and Francis) 1 (1): 926.
Perspectives. Mass Communication and Society 14 (6): doi:10.1080/13501769408406945.
905919. doi:10.1080/15205436.2011.615447.
[62] Princen, Sebastiaan (January 2007). Agenda-setting
[50] McCombs, Maxwell E.; Shaw, Donald L.; Weaver, David in the European Union: a theoretical exploration
H. (November 2014). New Directions in Agenda-Setting and agenda for research. Journal of European
Theory and Research. Mass Communication & Society Public Policy (Taylor and Francis) 14 (1): 2138.
17: 781802. doi:10.1080/15205436.2014.964871. doi:10.1080/13501760601071539.

[51] Guo, Lei; Vu, Hong Tien; McCombs, Maxwell (Decem- [63] McCombs, Maxwell; Llamas, Juan Pablo; Lopez-
ber 2012). An Expanded Perspective on Agenda-Setting Escobar, Esteban; Rey, Federico (December 1997).
Eects. Exploring the Third Level of Agenda Setting. Candidate images in Spanish elections: second-
Una extensin de la perspectiva de los efectos de la Agenda level agenda-setting eects. Journalism & Mass
Setting . Explorando el tercer nivel de la Agenda setting: Communication Quarterly (Sage) 74 (4): 703717.
5168. doi:10.1177/107769909707400404. Pdf.

[52] Ragas, Matthew; Marilyn Roberts (2009). Agenda Set- [64] Zhang, Guoliang; Shao, Guosong; Bowman, Nicholas
ting and Agenda Melding in an Age of Horizontal and Ver- David (October 2012). What is most important for my
tical Media: A New Theoretical Lens for Virtual Brand country is not most important for me: agenda-setting ef-
Communities. Journalism & Mass Communication Quar- fects in China. Communication Research (Sage) 39 (5):
terly 86 (1): 4564. doi:10.1177/107769900908600104. 662678. doi:10.1177/0093650211420996.
ISSN 1077-6990.
[65] Meraz, Sharon (2011). The ght for 'how to
[53] Carroll, C. E. (2004). How the Mass Media Inuence think': Traditional media, social networks, and is-
Perceptions of Corporate Reputation: Exploring Agenda- sue interpretation. Journalism 12 (1): 107127.
setting Eects within Business News Coverage. (Unpub- doi:10.1177/1464884910385193.
lished doctoral dissertation), The University of Texas at
Austin, Austin, Texas. Carroll, C. E. (2011). Corpo- [66] Wallsten, Kevin (2007). Agenda setting and the blogo-
rate reputation and the news media: Agenda setting within sphere: An analysis of the relationship between main-
business news in developed, emerging, and frontier mar- stream media and political blogs. Review of Pol-
kets. New York: Routledge. . icy Research 24 (6): 567587. doi:10.1111/j.1541-
[54] Berger B. (2001). Private Issues and Public Policy: Lo-
cating the Corporate Agenda in Agenda-Setting Theory. [67] Roberts, Marilyn; Wanta, Wayne; Dustin Dzwo, Tzong-
Journal of Public Relations Research, 13(2), 91126 Horng (2002). Agenda setting and issue salience
online. Communication Research 29 (4): 452465.
[55] Ramsey & McGuire, 2000 doi:10.1177/0093650202029004004.

[56] Carroll, Craig E., and Maxwell McCombs. Agenda- [68] As Digital Media Gets Horizontal, It Acts More Like
setting eects of business news on the publics images and Local Businesses | Street Fight. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
opinions about major corporations. Corporate reputation
[69] Fiske, John. Television: Polysemy and popularity. Crit-
review 6.1 (2003): 36-46
ical Studies in Media Communication 3.4 (1986): 391-
[57] Ghorpade, Shailendra. Agenda setting: A test of adver- 408.
tisings neglected function. Journal of Advertising Re-
search 26.4 (1986): 23-27.
11.1 Further reading
[58] Yang, Jin, and Gerald Stone. The powerful role of inter-
personal communication in agenda setting. Mass Com- McCombs, M.; Stroud, N. J. (2014). Psychology
munication and Society 6.1 (2003): 57-74. of Agenda-Setting Eects. Mapping the Paths of
Information Processing. Review of Communication
[59] Lowry, Dennis T., Tarn Ching Josephine Nio, and Den-
Research 2 (1): 6893. doi:10.12840/issn.2255-
nis W. Leitner. Setting the public fear agenda: A lon-
gitudinal analysis of network TV crime reporting, public
perceptions of crime, and FBI crime statistics. Journal of
Balmas M. and Sheafer T. Candidate image in elec-
Communication53.1 (2003): 61-73.
tion campaigns: attribute agenda setting, aective
[60] Ogata Jones, Karyn; Denham, Bryan E.; Springston, Jef- priming, and voting intentions. International Jour-
frey K. (February 2006). Eects of Mass and Inter- nal of Public Opinion Research Vol. 22 No. 2.
personal Communication on Breast Cancer Screening:
Advancing Agenda-Setting Theory in Health Contexts. Cohen, B. (1963). The Press and Foreign Policy.
Journal of Applied Communication Research 34: 94113. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN
doi:10.1080/00909880500420242. ISSN 0090-9882. 978-0-87772-346-2

Davie W. R. and Maher T. M. (2006) Maxwell McCombs, M.E.; Shaw, D.L. (1993). The Evo-
McCombs: Agenda-Setting Explorer. Journal of lution of Agenda-Setting Research: Twenty-Five
Broadcasting & Electronic Media 50(2), 358364. Years in the Marketplace of Ideas. Journal of Com-
munication 43 (2): 5867. doi:10.1111/j.1460-
Druckman, J.; Jacobs, L.; Ostermeir (2004). 2466.1993.tb01262.x.
Candidate Strategies to Prime Issues and Im-
age. Journal of Politics 66 (4): 11801202. Reiley, K. (2008, Nov.20). The Never-ending cam-
doi:10.1111/j.0022-3816.2004.00295.x. paign. Interview. p 56.

Groshek J. (2008). Homogenous Agendas, Dis- Revkin, A., Carter, S., Ellis,J., and McClean A.
parate Frames: CNN and CNN International Cov- (2008, Nov.) On the Issues: Climate Change. The
erage online. Journal of broadcasting and electronic New York Times.
media. 52(1), 52-68.
Severin W., & Tankard, J. (2001). Communication
Hayes, D. (2008). Does the Messenger Mat- Theories: Origins, Methods and Uses in Mass Com-
ter? Candidate-Media Agenda Convergence munication (5th ed.). New York: Longman.ISBN
and Its Eects on Voter Issue Salience. Po- 978-0-8013-3335-4
litical Research Quarterly 61 (1): 134146. Tanjong,, Enoh; Gaddy, Gary D. (1994). The
doi:10.1177/1065912907306472. ISSN 1065- Agenda-Setting Function of the International Mass
9129. Media: The Case of Newsweek in Nigeria. Africa
Media Review 8 (2): 114.
Huckins, K (1999). Interest-group inuence on the
media agenda: A case study. Journalism & Mass Wanta, W.; Wu, Y.C. (1995). Interpersonal
Communication Quarterly, 76, 76-86. communication and the agenda-setting pro-
cess. Journalism Quarterly 69: 847855.
Iyengar, S., Kinder, D.R. (1986) More Than Meets
the Eye: TV News, Priming, and Public Evaluations
of the President. Public Communication and Be- Weaver, D.H. (2007). Thoughts on Agenda
havior, Vol.1 New York: Academic. Setting, Framing, and Priming (PDF).
Journal of Communication 57 (1): 142147.
Kosicki, G. M. (1993). Problems and Op- doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00333.x.
portunities in Agenda-Setting Research (PDF).
Journal of Communication 43 (2): 100127. Yagade, A.; Dozier, D.M. (1990). The me-
doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01265.x. dia agenda-setting eect of concrete versus ab-
stract issues. Journalism Quarterly 67: 310.
Kosicki, G. (2002). The media priming eect: news doi:10.1177/107769909006700102.
media and considerations aecting political judge-
ments. In D. Pfau (Ed.), The persuasion handbook:
Developments in theory and practice (p. 63-80).
Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.ISBN 0-7619-

Kim, S., Scheufele, D.A., & Shanahan, J. (2002).

Think about it this way: Attribute agenda-setting
function of the press and the publics evaluation of
a local issue. Journalism & Mass Communication
Quarterly, 79, 7-25.

Kiousis, S.; McCombs, M. (2004). Agenda-

setting eects and attitude strength: Political
gures during the 1996 Presidential elec-
tions. Communication Research 31: 3657.

Lippmann, W. (1922). Public Opinion. New York:


McCombs, Maxwell E.; Donald L. Shaw (1972).

The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Me-
dia. Public Opinion Quarterly 36 (2): 176.
doi:10.1086/267990. ISSN 0033-362X.

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