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Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing Public Discussion 3 Despite this social-constructionist model, experimental studies of framing have typically examined only individual, psychological responses to alternative message-frames (see Scheufele, 1999 for a recent review). In this study, we employ for the first time group conversations as the unit of analysis in an experimental study of framing effects. Like other experimental studies of framing, we observe differences in public response to alternate issue frames – in this case either a “morality” or an “equality” frame as it applies to the question of whether or not gay or lesbian partnerships should be legally recognized. Unlike other studies however, and in keeping with Gamson and Modigliani’s (1987) methodological recommendations, we observe not isolated individual responses, but rather group-level, discursive reactions to each frame. Framing Research: A Bifurcated Endeavor The idea of framing has been widely applied in political communication and is subject to varying definitions (Price & Tewksbury, 1997), but its origins can be traced to a general perspective we may term “social constructivism” (Scheufele, 1999). In the constructionist model, media audiences are viewed as active in interpreting and discussing public events, but they rely upon the mass media to provide common frames of reference that guide interpretation and discussion. Closely aligned with the concept of a schema, a frame is a package of associated ideas that helps to guide attention, comprehension, storage, and retrieval of information. Frames evolve out of collective efforts to make sense of problems, and they help people “locate, perceive, identify, and label” their experience (Goffman, 1974, p. 21). In the political world, multiple frames emerge naturally in the course of public debate. People on different sides of an issue understand it differently, focus on different aspects of the problem, and actively promote their perspective in arguing for favored courses of action. Several reviews of framing research (e.g., Entman, 1991; Pan & Kosicki, 1993;

Authors: Price, Vincent., Nir, Lilach. and Cappella, Joseph.
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Framing Public Discussion
3
Despite this social-constructionist model, experimental studies of framing have typically
examined only individual, psychological responses to alternative message-frames (see Scheufele,
1999 for a recent review). In this study, we employ for the first time group conversations as the
unit of analysis in an experimental study of framing effects. Like other experimental studies of
framing, we observe differences in public response to alternate issue frames – in this case either a
“morality” or an “equality” frame as it applies to the question of whether or not gay or lesbian
partnerships should be legally recognized. Unlike other studies however, and in keeping with
Gamson and Modigliani’s (1987) methodological recommendations, we observe not isolated
individual responses, but rather group-level, discursive reactions to each frame.
Framing Research: A Bifurcated Endeavor
The idea of framing has been widely applied in political communication and is subject to
varying definitions (Price & Tewksbury, 1997), but its origins can be traced to a general
perspective we may term “social constructivism” (Scheufele, 1999). In the constructionist
model, media audiences are viewed as active in interpreting and discussing public events, but
they rely upon the mass media to provide common frames of reference that guide interpretation
and discussion. Closely aligned with the concept of a schema, a frame is a package of associated
ideas that helps to guide attention, comprehension, storage, and retrieval of information. Frames
evolve out of collective efforts to make sense of problems, and they help people “locate,
perceive, identify, and label” their experience (Goffman, 1974, p. 21). In the political world,
multiple frames emerge naturally in the course of public debate. People on different sides of an
issue understand it differently, focus on different aspects of the problem, and actively promote
their perspective in arguing for favored courses of action.
Several reviews of framing research (e.g., Entman, 1991; Pan & Kosicki, 1993;


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