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Framing Public Discussion of Gay Civil Unions
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing Public Discussion 6 discourse and citizen discourse (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 2). Audiences are dependent upon media discourse for many of their understandings; but they use it actively – assisted by their own experience, common wisdom, and other resources in their “tool kits” – to construct meaning. Frames enjoy success or failure depending upon resonances with popular thinking, active elite sponsorship, and media practices that might favor some frames over others. Frames develop in a dialectic fashion, as contesting parties articulate counter-frames to meet their opponents’ preferred interpretations. Some of these find fertile ground in public discussion and thinking, while others do not. Public discourse is thus a “set of discourses that interact in complex ways” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 2). What sorts of research methods does the constructionist model suggest? To study media discourse, Gamson and Modigliani trace the “careers” of various frames through analysis of news, political cartoons, elite pronouncements, and the like (e.g., Gamson & Lasch, 1983; Gamson & Modigliani, 1987, 1989). For analysis of public opinion, they find conventional survey-questionnaire methods to be problematic. Questionnaire responses “obscure ambivalence and disguise the presence of schemata that produce no clear-cut position”; they also blur the distinction between those without any working schema and those “with schemata that do not fit comfortably in a pro-or anti-category” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 35-36). Depth interviewing might offer some more refined sense of public reasoning (as in the work of Lane, 1962, or Graber, 1984), but even these techniques do not capture the process of negotiation itself. Gamson thus advocates focus-group methodologies, which stand to make “underlying schemata visible in some fashion” by allowing “a glimpse of the thinking process involved” (p. 20). In his research into collective action and political mobilization, for example, Gamson (1992) not only answering survey questions moderates the impact of the message frames.

Authors: Price, Vincent., Nir, Lilach. and Cappella, Joseph.
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Framing Public Discussion
6
discourse and citizen discourse (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 2). Audiences are dependent
upon media discourse for many of their understandings; but they use it actively – assisted by their
own experience, common wisdom, and other resources in their “tool kits” – to construct
meaning. Frames enjoy success or failure depending upon resonances with popular thinking,
active elite sponsorship, and media practices that might favor some frames over others. Frames
develop in a dialectic fashion, as contesting parties articulate counter-frames to meet their
opponents’ preferred interpretations. Some of these find fertile ground in public discussion and
thinking, while others do not. Public discourse is thus a “set of discourses that interact in
complex ways” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 2).
What sorts of research methods does the constructionist model suggest? To study media
discourse, Gamson and Modigliani trace the “careers” of various frames through analysis of
news, political cartoons, elite pronouncements, and the like (e.g., Gamson & Lasch, 1983;
Gamson & Modigliani, 1987, 1989). For analysis of public opinion, they find conventional
survey-questionnaire methods to be problematic. Questionnaire responses “obscure
ambivalence and disguise the presence of schemata that produce no clear-cut position”; they also
blur the distinction between those without any working schema and those “with schemata that do
not fit comfortably in a pro-or anti-category” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 35-36). Depth
interviewing might offer some more refined sense of public reasoning (as in the work of Lane,
1962, or Graber, 1984), but even these techniques do not capture the process of negotiation itself.
Gamson thus advocates focus-group methodologies, which stand to make “underlying schemata
visible in some fashion” by allowing “a glimpse of the thinking process involved” (p. 20). In his
research into collective action and political mobilization, for example, Gamson (1992) not only
answering survey questions moderates the impact of the message frames.


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