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Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing Public Discussion 5 messages (only one of which they typically encounter in a given study). A few studies have begun to explore the limits of framing effects, focusing on the ways people can spontaneously activate considerations outside of a frame imposed by reporting (Price, Tewksbury, and Powers, 1997), or make use of source credibility judgments to reject frames (Druckman, 2001). A few studies have examined responses to mixed-message sets including opposing frames (Brewer, 2002; Druckman & Nelson, 2002). But the unit of analysis invariably remains the individual, and the process of interest remains a cognitive response to a frame manipulation rather than the social construction of meaning. No experiments to date have explored how citizens construct frames in interaction with one another, for example, in group discussions (as advocated by Gamson, 1988, 1992). 1 A Constructionist Methodology Perhaps the fullest explication of the “constructionist” model of framing processes remains that of Gamson (1988, 1992; Gamson & Modigliani, 1987, 1989). In this model, “media discourse and public opinion are treated as two parallel systems of constructing meaning” Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 1). Thus, what is commonly referred to as “public discourse” over any issue has two aspects: (1) an array of interpretive packages of metaphors, catchphrases, visual images, and moral appeals presented by the media in its coverage; and (2) meanings negotiated by citizens as they interact with the press and engage with their fellow citizens. Together, these make up the “issue culture” surrounding matters of public debate. The process is seen as a “symbolic contest” over competing interpretive packages, one played out both in media 1 Druckman and Nelson (2002) report a framing study in which subjects were exposed to either unilateral or competing frames on campaign finance reform, and were then surveyed after having been engaged (or not) in discussing the issue in small groups. However, the study does not examine the group discussions per se; rather, it deploys the customary analysis of individual, attitudinal responses to the framing manipulation, focusing on whether discussion prior to

Authors: Price, Vincent., Nir, Lilach. and Cappella, Joseph.
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Framing Public Discussion
5
messages (only one of which they typically encounter in a given study). A few studies have
begun to explore the limits of framing effects, focusing on the ways people can spontaneously
activate considerations outside of a frame imposed by reporting (Price, Tewksbury, and Powers,
1997), or make use of source credibility judgments to reject frames (Druckman, 2001). A few
studies have examined responses to mixed-message sets including opposing frames (Brewer,
2002; Druckman & Nelson, 2002). But the unit of analysis invariably remains the individual,
and the process of interest remains a cognitive response to a frame manipulation rather than the
social construction of meaning. No experiments to date have explored how citizens construct
frames in interaction with one another, for example, in group discussions (as advocated by
Gamson, 1988, 1992).
1
A Constructionist Methodology
Perhaps the fullest explication of the “constructionist” model of framing processes
remains that of Gamson (1988, 1992; Gamson & Modigliani, 1987, 1989). In this model, “media
discourse and public opinion are treated as two parallel systems of constructing meaning”
Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 1). Thus, what is commonly referred to as “public discourse”
over any issue has two aspects: (1) an array of interpretive packages of metaphors, catchphrases,
visual images, and moral appeals presented by the media in its coverage; and (2) meanings
negotiated by citizens as they interact with the press and engage with their fellow citizens.
Together, these make up the “issue culture” surrounding matters of public debate. The process is
seen as a “symbolic contest” over competing interpretive packages, one played out both in media
1
Druckman and Nelson (2002) report a framing study in which subjects were exposed to either
unilateral or competing frames on campaign finance reform, and were then surveyed after having
been engaged (or not) in discussing the issue in small groups. However, the study does not
examine the group discussions per se; rather, it deploys the customary analysis of individual,
attitudinal responses to the framing manipulation, focusing on whether discussion prior to


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