Topics: Mass media, International Communication Association, Communication studies Pages: 20 (6657 words) Published: January 21, 2013
Journal of Communication ISSN 0021-9916


Framing, Agenda Setting, and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models Dietram A. Scheufele1 & David Tewksbury2
1 Department of Life Sciences Communication and School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI 53706 2 Department of Speech Communication and Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801

This special issue of Journal of Communication is devoted to theoretical explanations of news framing, agenda setting, and priming effects. It examines if and how the three models are related and what potential relationships between them tell theorists and researchers about the effects of mass media. As an introduction to this effort, this essay provides a very brief review of the three effects and their roots in media-effects research. Based on this overview, we highlight a few key dimensions along which one can compare, framing, agenda setting, and priming. We conclude with a description of the contexts within which the three models operate, and the broader implications that these conceptual distinctions have for the growth of our discipline. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00326.x

In 1997, Republican pollster Frank Luntz sent out a 222-page memo called ‘‘Language of the 21st century’’ to select members of the U.S. Congress. Parts of the memo soon spread among staffers, members of Congress, and also journalists. Luntz’s message was simple: ‘‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’’ (Luntz, in press). Drawing on various techniques for real-time message testing and focus grouping, Frank Luntz had researched Republican campaign messages and distilled terms and phrases that resonated with specific interpretive schemas among audiences and therefore helped shift people’s attitudes. In other words, the effect of the messages was not a function of content differences but of differences in the modes of presentation. The ideas outlined in the memo were hardly new, of course, and drew on decades of existing research in sociology (Goffman, 1974), economics (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979), psychology (Kahneman & Tversky, 1984), cognitive linguistics (Lakoff, 2004), and communication (Entman, 1991; Iyengar, 1991). But Frank Luntz was the first professional pollster to systematically use the concept of framing as a campaign tool. The Democratic Party soon followed and George Lakoff published Don’t Think of an Corresponding author: Dietram A. Scheufele

Journal of Communication 57 (2007) 9–20 ª 2007 International Communication Association


Models of Media Effects

D. A. Scheufele & D. Tewksbury

Elephant (Lakoff, 2004), a short manual for liberals on how to successfully frame their own messages. With the emergence of framing as a communication tool for modern campaigns has come a resurgence of academic research on other cognitive campaign effects, such as agenda setting and priming, many of which are thought to be related or at least based on similar premises (for overviews, see McCombs, 2004; Price & Tewksbury, 1997; Scheufele, 2000). This special issue of the Journal of Communication is an examination of whether and how framing, agenda setting, and priming are related and what these relationships tell theorists and researchers about the effects of mass media. As an introduction to this issue, this essay will provide a very brief review of the three effects and their roots in media effects research. Next, it will highlight a few key dimensions along which one can compare them. It will conclude with a description of the aims of this issue and the broader context within which the relationships between framing, agenda setting, and priming operate. The emergence of three models of political communication

The emerging body of research on framing, agenda setting, and priming has signaled the latest paradigm shift in political-communication research. Scholars of mass...
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