Agenda Setting

Agenda setting is a concept that explores effects of exposure to news media. The logic behind agenda setting is that the news media do not necessarily tell people what to think but instead influence what people think about—they are an influence on the public’s perception of which issues are important. The agenda-setting effect involves social learning—individuals learn the relative importance of a menu of issues based on how much coverage those issues receive in the news media. Since the initial study conducted during the 1968 U.S. presidential election (McCombs & Shaw, 1972), hundreds of research studies have examined this process, making it one of the most thoroughly researched theories in the journalism and mass communication field.

Agenda setting has been a remarkably flexible theoretical approach. Researchers ...

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