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Agenda setting and political partisanship in an election campaign: Reinforcing and undermining partisan voting intentions
Unformatted Document Text:  4 typically focused on issue salience recent research has also considered the frames within which issues are presented and how these suggest ways of thinking about salient issues (Shaw et al., 1999). From an agenda-setting perspective, mass media are powerful in setting the agenda for each political campaign, influencing the salience of political issues, and thus exerting a subtle form of influence on political thinking (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). The assumption is that voters typically attend selectively to issues that appear important at the moment and that these “primed” issues then become the principal yardsticks for evaluating candidates (see Krosnick & Miller, 1996 for a review). For instance, Iyengar and Kinder (1987) suggested that the news media’s sudden preoccupation with the Iranian hostage issue in the closing days of the 1980 US presidential campaign caused voters to think about the candidates’ ability to control terrorism when choosing between Presidential candidates, Carter and Reagan, a phenomenon which proved disadvantageous to Carter. Notwithstanding the obvious command on the agenda of significant real-world events, the appearance of importance is, to a large extent, a matter of what editors and journalists choose to cover or ignore (as well as how they choose to do so). It is also true that political candidates who are given a deal of exposure during election campaigns are in an advantageous position to put issues on the agenda, keep issues on the agenda, and “mould” issues strategically to suit their political ends (Semetko, Blumler, Gurevitch, & Weaver, 1991). The notion that media agendas are politically consequential, is premised on the assumption that media coverage of issues can do more than influence perceptions of collective issue salience––it can also set the personal issue agenda and drive political behavior. There has, however, been an ongoing debate as to whether media effects in general are more impersonal than personal, affecting social-level perceptions of the attitudes, beliefs or experiences of others, rather than personal attitudes or beliefs (e.g., Mutz, 1992; see also Davison, 1983; Tyler & Cook, 1984), and specifically whether agenda-setting is limited to the collective salience of issues. Indeed, in studies of agenda-setting, mass media are typically found to have a greater impact on peoples’ perceptions of the public agenda than on the importance of issues to themselves (e.g., Becker, McCombs, & McLeod, 1975; McLeod, et al., 1974; Mutz & Soss, 1997). Mutz (1992, 1998) argues that a person may not perceive some problem as important to him or her personally just because he or she has seen a great deal of news concerning it, but that person would be very likely to think that it is an important issue to other people, and thus an

Authors: Duck, Julie., Morton, Thomas. and Fortey, Kate.
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typically focused on issue salience recent research has also considered the frames within which
issues are presented and how these suggest ways of thinking about salient issues (Shaw et al.,
1999).
From an agenda-setting perspective, mass media are powerful in setting the agenda for
each political campaign, influencing the salience of political issues, and thus exerting a subtle
form of influence on political thinking (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). The assumption is that voters
typically attend selectively to issues that appear important at the moment and that these
“primed” issues then become the principal yardsticks for evaluating candidates (see Krosnick &
Miller, 1996 for a review). For instance, Iyengar and Kinder (1987) suggested that the news
media’s sudden preoccupation with the Iranian hostage issue in the closing days of the 1980 US
presidential campaign caused voters to think about the candidates’ ability to control terrorism
when choosing between Presidential candidates, Carter and Reagan, a phenomenon which
proved disadvantageous to Carter. Notwithstanding the obvious command on the agenda of
significant real-world events, the appearance of importance is, to a large extent, a matter of what
editors and journalists choose to cover or ignore (as well as how they choose to do so). It is also
true that political candidates who are given a deal of exposure during election campaigns are in
an advantageous position to put issues on the agenda, keep issues on the agenda, and “mould”
issues strategically to suit their political ends (Semetko, Blumler, Gurevitch, & Weaver, 1991).
The notion that media agendas are politically consequential, is premised on the
assumption that media coverage of issues can do more than influence perceptions of collective
issue salience––it can also set the personal issue agenda and drive political behavior. There has,
however, been an ongoing debate as to whether media effects in general are more impersonal
than personal, affecting social-level perceptions of the attitudes, beliefs or experiences of others,
rather than personal attitudes or beliefs (e.g., Mutz, 1992; see also Davison, 1983; Tyler &
Cook, 1984), and specifically whether agenda-setting is limited to the collective salience of
issues. Indeed, in studies of agenda-setting, mass media are typically found to have a greater
impact on peoples’ perceptions of the public agenda than on the importance of issues to
themselves (e.g., Becker, McCombs, & McLeod, 1975; McLeod, et al., 1974; Mutz & Soss,
1997). Mutz (1992, 1998) argues that a person may not perceive some problem as important to
him or her personally just because he or she has seen a great deal of news concerning it, but that
person would be very likely to think that it is an important issue to other people, and thus an


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