Mediating and Moderating the Agenda-Setting Process: Three Studies of the Air Quality Issue
Gordon, Craig S.
MetadataShow full item record
The primary focus of this study is to conceptualize and to develop a series of empirical models testing various mechanisms that might explain how a public information campaign and the resulting media coverage led to changes in the level of importance the public ascribes to air quality. The expressed purpose of the public information campaign was to focus attention on the issue of air quality and to change: (1) the publics perception of the importance of air quality; (2) attitudes about the social problem; and (3) specific behaviors, such as single occupancy driving. The issue advocates also sought to focus media attention on air quality, with the expectation that media coverage about the social problem would influence public concern. Therefore, public concern may change in response to the issue advocacy or the media coverage. In each paper of this manuscript, a mechanism or moderator that may account for changes in issue importance was hypothesized. The first paper, entitled The Mechanism of Transference: Projection and Conformity in the Agenda-Setting Process, tests two competing theories (projection and conformity) that may mediate the relationship between media coverage and public concern. The second paper, entitled Testing the Homogeneity Assumption of Public Opinion, tests two competing theories (heterogeneity and homogeneity) that may moderate the relationship between media coverage and public concern. Finally, the third paper, entitled Talk Back: The Impact of Social Communications on Media Coverage and Issue Importance, tests the importance of a mechanism that permits a feedback loop from the public to the media, through social communications. In all cases, the mechanism or moderator was hypothesized at the aggregate or mass level, but the findings shed light on where researchers should look for individual-level effects.