The influence of presumed media influence in politics: Do politicians' perceptions of media power matter?

  • Cohen J
  • Tsfati Y
  • Sheafer T
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Abstract

Much of what politicians do, we maintain in this paper, is driven by their belief in the power of media, which motivates their desire to be featured in news coverage. Our argument rests upon recent advances in communication theory, stressing “the influence on presumed media influence” (Gunther, Albert C., and J. Douglas Storey. 2003. “The Influence of Presumed Influence.” Journal of Communication 35(2):199-215) and contributes to our understanding of the mediatization of politics. Combined data from a survey of Israeli members of Knesset (MKs; n = 56), parliamentary reporters’ (n = 20) rankings of MKs’ media motivations, Knesset records of MKs' political activity, and data on the frequency of MKs’ news appearances were used to test this argument. Structural equation modeling revealed that politicians’ belief in the power of media increases their motivation and effort to appear in media coverage, which in turn is related both to greater media prominence and to more parliamentary activity. These results are discussed in light of their implications for both our understanding of political actors and the role of journalists.

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Authors

  • Jonathan Cohen

  • Yariv Tsfati

  • Tamir Sheafer

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