Adams, W. C., Salzman, A., Vantine, W., Suelter, L., Baker, A., Bonvouloir, L., Brenner, B., Ely, M., Feldman, J., & Ziegel, R. (1985). The Power of The Right Stuff: A Quasi-Experimental Field Test of the Docudrama Hypothesis. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 49 (3): 330-339.
In recent researches, docudrama hypothesis runs that docudrama (being a combination of melodramatic fiction and documentary film) strongly affects viewers’ perception concerning social and political affairs. Though “The Right Stuff”¯ mostly focuses on space pioneers’ heroism, than on political issues, the authors of the article suggest this film offers a fascinating basis for testing the docudrama hypothesis.
For assessing “The Right Stuff”¯ effect, the researchers applied a quasi-experimental field study and interviewed 966 randomly selected adult moviegoers in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia during October 1983, dividing them into the pretest (320), posttest (347) and the delayed posttest (299) groups. The research showed that respondents, who had just watched the film, graded higher both person and political features of John Glenn (John Glenn’s postmovie approvals increased by 7%). Thus, on the one hand, the data showed that “The Right Stuff”¯ had a positive effect for Glenn’s campaign. On the other hand, according to self-assessment questions, 62,6% of viewers denied docudrama’s impact on their political thinking (34,5% admitted their higher estimations and 2,9% – lower ones). The delayed posttest group’s responses also evidenced a continual impact of “The Right Stuff”¯, though were close to the indicators obtained in posttest group.
However, researchers are also aware of different factors limiting film’s influence on the political campaign of 1984; the most significant of which is that comparatively few voters saw it (1,4 mln registered voters or 1% of electorate). Besides, public identification of “The Right Stuff”¯ as a picture of political character could damage its reputation. In general, the authors conclude that “The Right Stuff”¯ didn’t hypnotize the complete audience into the loyalty towards John Glenn, though a considerable part of this docudrama’s viewers was positively influenced towards his candidacy for presidency.
Feldman, S., & and Sigelman, L. (1985). The Political Impact of Prime-Time Television: “The Day After”. The Journal of Politics, 47 (2): 556-578.
The authors of the article claim that being unfairly ignored by analysts, some of prime-time entertainment shows deal openly with important social and political issues, so they try to show their importance on the example of “The Day After”¯ movie made in 1983 depicting the possible life in America after a nuclear war.
Studies on attitudinal, cognitive, and salience effects of new information showed that television could seriously affect people’s beliefs and information about the world, determine the levels of people’s concern about certain issues. However some beliefs about the world, being central in one’s belief system or linked closely to other beliefs, are quite stable.
According to researchers, a television program can influence different people differently depending on the two conditions controlling these effects: perceived realism of the movie and viewer knowledgeability. The survey consisting in questioning of 5,500 viewers applying special statistical model showed that the follow-up panel discussion of “The Day After”¯ on ABC had very limited effects. A powerful effect was knowledgeable viewers’ moving toward a conciliatory attitude to U.S.-Soviet relations. Moreover, among the most educated people, watching the movie caused a slight increase in perceiving the Reagan’ policies as promoting nuclear war.
The study showed that the program’s total impact resulted from its coverage in the media rather than from direct watching. The analysis shows that less educated people thought and worried more about nuclear war after watching the movie and came to support greater defense spending and Reagan’s foreign policy. More educated people, on the other hand, disapproved Reagan and called for more cuts in military spending. On the basis of this study, closer attention to the political impact of prime-time television is clearly warranted.
Lenart, S., & McGraw, K. M. (1989). America Watches “Amerika”¯: Television Docudrama and Political Attitudes. The Journal of Politics, 51, (3): 697-712.
The article studies the impact of the movie “Amerika”¯, depicting life in the Midwest ten years after a Soviet takeover of the United States, on a variety of political attitudes and beliefs. It is proven that television docudramas can influence political attitudes. However, it is apparent that care must be taken in identifying which beliefs and attitudes are likely to be impacted, as well as the conditions controlling these effects.
There were distinguished two sets of dependent measures to assess the impact of “Amerika”¯: attitudes (about the Soviet Union, communism, American foreign policy, and the United Nations) and stereotypes (ratings of the characteristics of Russians and Americans).
Most Americans have stereotypes about Russians (which are considerably more negative than their stereotypes of Americans as a group), even though they have never met a Russian.
The survey included respondents from Long Island only (total 348 persons who were interviewed after watching the movie). The “Amerika’s”¯ effects on the audience were determined by Type of Exposure (direct and indirect exposure), Perceived Realism (viewer must believe that the fictionalized account could really happen), Political Ideology (ideological tendencies), and Knowledge (the less educated are more affected by the series than those with higher levels of knowledge).
In general, the study showed that watching “Amerika”¯ caused changes in attitudes about Soviet-American relations in the direction of greater conservatism (less tolerance of communism and greater acceptance of increased military strength, the attitude of political liberals and independents also changed to a conservative direction). Dominant message was namely, that Americans needed to be increasingly aware against the Soviet threat.
As television is the dominant mass medium in American society, it is important to consider its impact on political attitudes, beliefs, and behavior
Rossman, G. (2004). Elites, Masses, and Media Blacklists: The Dixie Chicks Controversy. Social Forces, 83(1): 61-79.
This article applies the political economy of the mass media tradition, the social movements literature, and the sociology of culture to analyze the situation when the country music group the Dixie Chicks were roughly criticized for their antiwar statements and disrespect to the president of the USA in 2003.
Having analyzed a range of newspapers and magazines covering the issue, it’s clear that some researchers see the academic and political discourse about corporate media in general and one of the largest ones – Clear Channel – in particular, accusing it of initiating the Dixie Chicks’ blacklisting. However, the organizational inertia makes it difficult for large media companies to react to political crises, so they continued Dixie Chicks’ rotations.
The political economists call flak from social movements and as a main source of media distortion. Some media researches have described the part of social movements in forming the media and the political sociology of social movements gives a useful framework for studying the issue. The Dixie Chicks situation is also sometimes associated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC).
The sociology of culture literature on country music tells that “country”¯ music is associated with the political right movement (i.e. pro-governmental, more conservative), so when country musicians express the liberal elites’ values in the same patronizing tones it is not simply disagreeable, but a betrayal of their crucial identity. Such behavior is more characteristic of punk rockers who had made similar claims without serious outcomes.
The study’s results showed that it is not ownership, but criticism that was responsible for the hostile reaction to musicians’ claim. To the degree that the people’s position is to the right, then reaction to its voiced requires brings media content there as well.
Edwards, G. C., & Wood, B. D. (1999). Who Influences Whom? The President, Congress, and the Media. The American Political Science Review, 93 (2): 327-344.
The authors of the research aim to investigate the mechanism of president’s influence on issue attention of Congress and the media by means of estimating measures of presidential, congressional, and media attention to 5 issues: US-Soviet relations, Arab-Israeli conflict, health care, education and crime. For studying these influences in agenda setting processes, they offer vector autoregression method as the most appropriate tool.
In order to fix presidential attention, Public Papers of the President were used, in which the key words were searched for relevant activities and the number of paragraphs devoted to each issue was counted during the period from the 27th week of 1984 up to the 23rd week of 1994.
Media attention was measured by the number of minutes devoted to each issue in 3 network news programs, while congressional attention to the 5 issues was measured as the amount of days of hearings fixed in the Congressional Information Service Index.
On the whole, authors determine the attention of the president, Congress, and the media as strongly inertial, interpreting it through the strong dependence on historical trends and current transformations, as well as the necessity of these institutions to follow certain routine in functioning. This results in dependence on random, exogenous and uncontrolled forces, limiting the agenda. However, all three institutions still perform mutual influence: one-way relations in foreign policy (the president reacts to the media); interactive relationship in domestic policy (the president influences the media in issues of education and health care).
The article concludes that presidents react most of the time to attention fluctuations in the media and in world events, but still produce presidential initiative in focusing on other issues. At the same time, Congress has no control over the agendas of both the president and the media, being influenced by these agendas. In contrast, media networks have a very significant role in agenda setting, influencing the president in both foreign and domestic policies. The variety of methods of this influence should be studied in future researches.
Cook, F. L., Tyler, T. R., Goetz, E. G., Gordon, M. T, Protess, D., Leff, D. R., & Molotch, H. L. (1983). Media and Agenda Setting: Effects on the Public, Interest Group Leaders, Policy Makers, and Policy. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 47 (1): 16-35.
The article presents the results of the study, examining the effect of TV news reports on general public, governmental policy makers, interest group elites, and policy, as well as the extent of media’s agenda-setting capacity, affecting various social groups and making them change attitudes concerning the importance and priorities of different social issues.
The authors of the article consider a randomized experimental pretest-posttest design to be an ideal research model for testing causal hypotheses concerning media agenda-setting capacity, applying a control group unexposed to a media event. Thus, 300 respondents were randomly divided into equal experimental and control group. The experimental group was asked to watch an 18-minute fragment “Home Health Hustle”¯ in “NBC News Magazine”¯, while the control one was asked to watch another program aired at the same time. In addition, the researchers interviewed 51 policy makers, dividing them into governmental elites (27) and special interest elites (24). In both pre- and posttest interviews, the respondents were asked several questions concerning home health care programs in general, fraud and abuse in such programs, importance of the problem, importance of governmental help, etc.
The results prove that the target program had an obvious agenda-setting effect among the general public; it influenced public views and judgments concerning the importance of the examined issue. At the same time, news media presentations are more likely to influence governmental elites, rather than interest group elites. But still, the problem of fraud and abuse in home health care ranked last in policy makers’ priorities, while it ranked second in priorities of the experimental group of general public. Though the research found that health care-related issues became more important for the public and certain policy makers exposed to the investigative report than to nonviewers, there was found no relationship between impact at these levels and effects at the actual policy-making level.
Protess, D., Leff,D., Brooks,S.C., Gordon,M.T. (1985). Uncovering Rape: The Watchdog Press and the Limits of Agenda Setting. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 49 (1): 19-37.
The authors of the article report the results of experiments on media investigative reports’ agenda-setting effects on a random sample of Chicagoans and a purposive sample of policy makers, applying a pretest-posttest quasi-experimental design for estimating the influence of newspaper series concerning rape, as well as series’ effects on the Chicago public policy and on media’s own agenda and general coverage of rape issues.
The investigative series devoted to rape issues was published in Chicago Sun-Times in 5 parts starting from July 25, 1982. 347 respondents were selected by means of random digit-dialing techniques and further divided into an experimental group (170 readers of the Sun-Times) and a control group (177 readers of the Chicago Tribune and other news-papers). In addition, 39 policy makers were interviewed. The entire sample of ordinary respondents and 37 policy makers were recontacted in 1-2 weeks after series’ publication.
In both pre- and posttest interviews, the respondents were asked questions concerning most serious urban problems in general (only 13% of respondents pointed out the issue of rape specifically), to crime and to rape in particular. The additional data on rape or sexual assault coverage was obtained through a 3-month content analysis of the Sun-Times both before the publication of the rape series and after it, in comparison to the content analysis of the Chicago Tribune for the same period.
The series on rape didn’t show a comparable agenda-setting effect on experimental group respondents. Attitude changes weren’t also detected among policy makers. Researchers suggest that rape as a social issue could have reached its saturation level in the society and was already well presented on the agenda. However, the study demonstrated a significant change in later coverage of rape by the Sun- Times: the researches marked the doubling of space devoted to rape issues (from 594 inchĀ² before the series up to 1,354 inchĀ² after it). Thus, the examined investigative reports significantly influenced media’s own agenda.
Pritchard, D. (1986). Homicide and Bargained Justice: The Agenda-Setting Effect of Crime News on Prosecutors. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 50 (2): 143-159.
The article reports the results of the research concerning the possibility that differences in individual criminal cases’ newspaper coverage influences the decisions of major officials of the justice system. The study is focused on prosecutors of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, where cases are primarily processed by plea-bargaining. The results were expected to show that the amount of space devoted to a criminal case in newspapers contributes to setting the agenda of public officials-prosecutors, deciding which cases should be plea-bargained and which should be taken to trial.
Police and court records, as well as news stories were analyzed regarding all individuals arrested for homicide in the 18-month period (January 1, 1981-June 30, 1982) in Milwaukee County. Thus, the study included 90 cases of homicide defendants. The researchers considered the level of newspapers’ interest to cases as the independent variable, and the behavior of prosecutor’s office with respect to cases as the dependent variable.
Court records and news stories contained exact evidence that prosecutors engaged into negotiations in 50% of cases (35 cases resulted in consensual settlement, in 10 cases defendants refused plea bargains offered by prosecutors). Moreover, discriminant analysis proved that press coverage of a case (amount of space) mostly predicted whether prosecutors would engage into negotiations.
Thus, the result of the study show that newspapers’ interest toward cases help set Milwaukee prosecutors’ plea-bargaining agendas in homicide cases. Besides, the authors of the article found evidence proving an agenda-setting effect of everyday crime news. However, they understand that this study is focused on a rather narrow type of public officials in one separate community, so it can’t offer general conclusions on whether the press is setting the agenda for public officials in other cases or places.