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Agenda setting and political partisanship in an election campaign: Reinforcing and undermining partisan voting intentions
Unformatted Document Text:  19 they were voting and were the two key factors that had influenced the election outcome and the return of Government. Taken together, these findings are consistent with the notion that world- events and their coverage in the mass media are powerful in setting the agenda for political campaigns and in shaping our view of what others are thinking about (see also McCombs & Shaw, 1972; Mutz, 1992, 1998). Moreover, our results suggest that these beliefs about others’ agendas and others’ opinions on agenda issues are consequential in shaping predictions about and explanations for election outcomes, and thus in providing the backdrop for personal political judgments. By contrast, our results provided evidence that these same agenda issues were not personally embraced across the board. Rather, the assessment of personal issue importance varied significantly as a function of political partisanship in ways that reflected the politically- loaded nature of the agenda issues. Liberal partisans embraced both issues as personally important, a finding consistent with the fact that the agenda of defense and immigration “suited” or resonated with their political ingroup. However, other voters were less willing to acknowledge the importance of these issues to their own agenda. Labor partisans, for instance, downplayed the personal importance of defense, an issue that was clearly inconsistent with their left-wing predispositions. This pattern of findings has parallels with previous research suggesting that issue salience in the media often has a greater impact on peoples’ perceptions of the public agenda than on the importance of issues to themselves (e.g., Becker, et al., 1975; McLeod, et al., 1974; Mutz & Soss, 1997), and that personal issue importance is influenced by factors other than media salience (e.g., Dearing & Rogers, 1996, Rössler & Schenk, 2000; Wanta, 1997). In particular, findings accord with evidence which implicates political partisanship as a moderator of media effects (e.g., Iyengar & Kinder, 1987) and with the notion that voters are active, at least to some degree, in positioning themselves relative to the public agenda (see Wanta, 1997). In line with the widely-held assumption that the principal impact of election campaigns is to push political partisans into their respective corners, reinforcing pre-existing attitudes and polarizing the responses of political opponents (see Iyengar & Simon, 2000), one would expect to find strongly partisan responses to questions about personal support for the two parties and their leaders. Media coverage of election issues should crystallize differences between the sides and encourage audiences to respond primarily as group members (Price, 1989), favoring their

Authors: Duck, Julie., Morton, Thomas. and Fortey, Kate.
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they were voting and were the two key factors that had influenced the election outcome and the
return of Government. Taken together, these findings are consistent with the notion that world-
events and their coverage in the mass media are powerful in setting the agenda for political
campaigns and in shaping our view of what others are thinking about (see also McCombs &
Shaw, 1972; Mutz, 1992, 1998). Moreover, our results suggest that these beliefs about others’
agendas and others’ opinions on agenda issues are consequential in shaping predictions about
and explanations for election outcomes, and thus in providing the backdrop for personal political
judgments.
By contrast, our results provided evidence that these same agenda issues were not
personally embraced across the board. Rather, the assessment of personal issue importance
varied significantly as a function of political partisanship in ways that reflected the politically-
loaded nature of the agenda issues. Liberal partisans embraced both issues as personally
important, a finding consistent with the fact that the agenda of defense and immigration “suited”
or resonated with their political ingroup. However, other voters were less willing to
acknowledge the importance of these issues to their own agenda. Labor partisans, for instance,
downplayed the personal importance of defense, an issue that was clearly inconsistent with their
left-wing predispositions. This pattern of findings has parallels with previous research
suggesting that issue salience in the media often has a greater impact on peoples’ perceptions of
the public agenda than on the importance of issues to themselves (e.g., Becker, et al., 1975;
McLeod, et al., 1974; Mutz & Soss, 1997), and that personal issue importance is influenced by
factors other than media salience (e.g., Dearing & Rogers, 1996, Rössler & Schenk, 2000;
Wanta, 1997). In particular, findings accord with evidence which implicates political
partisanship as a moderator of media effects (e.g., Iyengar & Kinder, 1987) and with the notion
that voters are active, at least to some degree, in positioning themselves relative to the public
agenda (see Wanta, 1997).
In line with the widely-held assumption that the principal impact of election campaigns
is to push political partisans into their respective corners, reinforcing pre-existing attitudes and
polarizing the responses of political opponents (see Iyengar & Simon, 2000), one would expect
to find strongly partisan responses to questions about personal support for the two parties and
their leaders. Media coverage of election issues should crystallize differences between the sides
and encourage audiences to respond primarily as group members (Price, 1989), favoring their


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