A Failure to Communicate: Agenda Setting in Media and Policy Studies

  • Wolfe M
  • Jones B
  • Baumgartner F
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In this article, we review two research programs that could benefit froma more extensive dialogue: media and policy studies of agenda setting. We focus on three key distinc- tions that divide these two robust research programs: the agenda(s) under investigation (public versus policymaking), the typical level of analysis (individual versus systemic), and framing effects (individual versus macro level). We map out these differences and their impacts on understanding the policy process. There is often a policy disconnect in the agenda-setting studies that emanate from the media tradition. Though interested in the effects of political communication, scholars from this tradition often fail to link the media to policy outcomes, policy change, or agenda change. Policy process scholars have increasingly rejected simple linear models in favor of models emphasizing complex feedback effects. This suggests a different role for the media—one of highlighting attributes in a multifaceted political reality and involvement in positive feedback cycles. Yet, political communication scholars have for the most part been insensitive to these potentials.We advocate a shared agenda centering on the role of the media in the political system from an information processing framework, emphasizing the reciprocal effects of each on the other.

Author-supplied keywords

  • agenda setting
  • framing
  • policy process

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  • Michelle Wolfe

  • Bryan D. Jones

  • Frank R. Baumgartner

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