The debate on the media’s agenda-setting power is not settled yet. Most empirical agenda-setting studies using time-series analyses found that the media matter for the political agenda, but the size of the found media effects remains often modest. This nuanced view on media impact seems to contradict with the perceptions of politicians. Our comparative survey of members of parliament in four small parliamentary democracies—Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark—shows that they consider the mass media to be one of the key political agenda setters directly competing with the Prime Minister and the powerful political parties. This article further explores the inconsistency between “objective” and “subjective” findings. We develop six possible explanations for the contradicting findings produced by both methods and formulate concrete suggestions to improve both methods and diminish the gap between them.
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