The premiere framing institution
of our time, the American media dramatically shapes the way we
view current issues. As early as 1920, a scientist named Lippman
proposed that the media would control public opinion by focusing
attention on selected issues while ignoring others. Known as
the "agenda-setting" hypothesis, the idea that people
were easily susceptible to media influence was soon derided as
an overly simplistic misperception of the viewing audience.
Through most of this century, media pundits claimed that the
public wasn't susceptible to simple "hypodermic" injections
from the media (and you can still hear this defense put forward
by today's media moguls). But the agenda-setting hypothesis has
been revisited recently by scientists like Krosnick & Miller
(1996), who have traced surges and declines in presidential popularity
to media contextualizing.
In 1991, the gulf war dominated media coverage, pushing Bush's
approval ratings to 90% after the war--the highest rating
in American history. A short 12 months later, Bush was defeated
at the polls. How could one of the most popular presidents in
American history lose a subsequent election? There was no publicised
scandal, no political gaffe, no international blunder that could
explain Bush's misfortunes.
Media personalities often explain national changes in mood
by denigrating the fickle, mindless American public. Remember
when Dan Rather attributed the 1994 Republican wins to a public
that threw a "tantrum"? But a fickle, mindless public
isn't the answer either. The answer to national mood swings appears
to be psychological rather than logical. Seemingly inconsequential
changes in issue presentation have been shown to cause dramatic
shifts in public preference.
Researchers Krosnick & Brannon (1993) used national survey
data to answer this very question. During 1992, the media refocused
its attentions from the war to the national economy. Based on
sophisticated statistical analyses, Krosnick & Brannon demonstrated
that this media refocus largely accounted for Bush's declining
popularity in 1992.
Because of this and similar research, many media experts are
once again viewing the public as passive recipients of "hypodermic"
media injections. Yeah, that's right: people are told what to
think by the media. And the vast majority of people obediently
think as they're told. It's just human nature--who has the time
or the energy to sort out all the issues one's self? The media
does this for us. It offers us safe, often comforting opinions
that appear to be the consensus of the nation. (The internet
is a chink in the armor.)
Communications scientist Robert
Entman (1993) states that "Journalists may follow the rules
for objective reporting and yet convey a dominant framing of
the news that prevents most audience members from making a balanced
assessment of a situation."
This requires that we ask a fundamental question: if media
elites can effectively shape public opinion by emphasizing certain
issues and ignoring others, what is the nature of a modern, media-dominated
Does public opinion reside in the minds of citizens, or is
public opinion manufactured elsewhere and then merely deposited
in the minds of citizens?
Entman thinks that attempting to determine the public's 'true'
opinion is often a futile effort, since opinions can be as easily
manufactured as they can be measured.
Continue for frame defense . .
Copyright © 1997 by Kelton Rhoads, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
Adherence, advertise, advertising,
advocacy, analysis, arizona state university, asu, art of persuasion,
arguing, argument, argumentation, attitude, attitude change,
belief, bias, brad sagarin, brainwashing, campaign, communicate,
communication, conversion. Compliance, comply, conform, conformity,
consult, consultant, consulting, course, courtroom, credibility,
credible, cult, cults, debate, decision making, education, emotion,
executive education, executive program, executive training. Group,
how to, influence, influencing, kelton rhoads, kelton rhodes,
kris haynal, law, leadership, leadership training, leadership
education, legal, likability, management, management, market
research, marketing, mass marketing, mass persuasion, mass influence,
mind control, motivation, negotiation, obedience, opinion, organizational
services, personality, persuade. Persuasion, persuasive, political,
political consulting, politics, polling, influence principles,
professional services, program, promote, promotion, propaganda,
psychological persuasion, psychological operations, psyop, psychological
research, psychology, psychology of persuasion, psychology of
influence, public relations, questionnaire, reinforcement, reputation.
Research, rhetoric, rhetorical, rhoads, rhodes, rhods, rodes,
rhoads, robert cialdini, chaldini, sales, sampling, science of
persuasion, science of influence, sell, selling, small group
research, social influence, social psychology, social action
campaign, speaker, speech, spin, statistics, strategy, survey,
technique, trial, university of southern california, usc, workshop,
working psychology, work.