By Wayne Wanta, Guy Golan, and Cheolhan Lee
A national poll and a content analysis of network newscasts examined if coverage of foreign nations had an agenda-setting influence. The more media coverage a nation received, the more likely respondents were to think the nation was vitally important to U.S. interests, supporting the agenda-setting hypothesis. Themore negative coverage a nationreeeived, the more likely respondents were to think negatively about the nation, supporting the second level of agenda setting. Positive coverage of a nation had no influence on public perceptions.
Research examining the agenda-setting function of the news media has undergone a dramatic reconceptualization in recent years. No longer is research based on the nation noted by Cohen' that "the press may not be successful in teiling us what to think but is stunningly successful in telling us what to think about." Indeed, researchers now argue that, under certain circumstances, the news media do tell people what to think by providing the public with an agenda of attributes—a list of characteristics of important newsmakers. Individuals mentally link these mediated attributes to the newsmakers to a similar degree in which the attributes are mentioned in the media. The present study attempts to examine agenda setting in a new context. The focus of the study will be foreign nations and not individuals in the news, as previous studies have used.- Data come from a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has conducted surveys every four years since 1974. The media agendas come from a content analysis of network newscasts. The analysis here, then, will first test whether coverage of foreign nations in the news influences how important these nations are viewed to be by individuals. Next, the analysis will test whether positive or... [continues]
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