This theory puts forth the ability of the media to influence the significance of events in the public's mind. The media set the agenda for the audience's discussion and mentally order and organize their world. The theory is consistent with a "use and gratification" approach. McCombs and Shaw assert that the agenda-setting function of the media causes the correlation between the media and public ordering of priorities. The people most affected by the media agenda are those who have a high need for orientation.
Agenda Setting Theory:
The agenda-setting theory is the theory that the news media have a large influence on audiences by their choice of what stories to consider newsworthy and how much prominence and space to give them. Agenda-setting theory’s main postulate is salience transfer. Salience transfer is the ability of the news media to transfer issues of importance from their news media agendas to public agendas. "Through their day-by-day selection and display of the news, editors and news directors focus our attention and influence our perceptions of what are the most important issues of the day. This ability to influence the salience of topics on the public agenda has come to be called the agenda setting role of the news media.
The media agenda is the set of issues addressed by media sources and the public agenda which are issues the public consider important. Agenda-setting theory was introduced in 1972 by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in their ground breaking study of the role of the media in 1968 presidential campaign in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The theory explains the correlation between the rate at which media cover a story and the extent that people think that this story is important. This correlation has been shown to occur repeatedly.
In the dissatisfaction of the magic bullet theory, McCombs and Shaw introduced agenda setting theory in the Public Opinion Quarterly. The theory was derived from their study that took place in Chapel Hill, NC, where the researchers surveyed 100 undecided voters during the 1968 presidential campaign on what they thought were key issues and measured that against the actual media content. The ranking of issues was almost identical with a correlation of .97, and the conclusions matched their hypothesis that the mass media positioned the agenda for public opinion by emphasizing specific topics. Subsequent research on agenda-setting theory provided evidence for the cause-and-effect chain of influence being debated by critics in the field.
One particular study made leaps to prove the cause-effect relationship. The study was conducted by Yale researchers, Shanto Iyengar, Mark Peters, and Donald Kinder. The researchers had three groups of subjects fill out questionnaires about their own concerns and then each group watched different evening news programs, each of which emphasized a different issue. After watching the news for four days, the subjects again filled out questionnaires and the issues that they rated as most important matched the issues they viewed on the evening news. The study demonstrated a cause-and-effect relationship between media agenda and public agenda. As of 2004, there were over 400 empirical studies examining the effects of Agenda Setting. The theory has evolved beyond the media's influence on the public's perceptions of issue salience to political candidates and corporate reputation.
The agenda-setting function has multiple components:
▪ Media agenda are issues discussed in the media, such as newspapers, television, and radio. ▪ Public agenda are issues discussed among members of the public. ▪ Policy agenda are issues that policy makers consider important, such as legislators. ▪ Corporate agenda are...