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Iyengar and Kinder: News that matters

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Iyengar and Kinder. 1987. News that matters.

Main Point

The media can change our (expressed) opinions without changing our (underlying) attitudes at all, through priming, framing, and agenda setting. Thus, political campaigns don't change our minds; they try to make us think about considerations that will lead us to support one candidate over another. The authors back up their arguments with experimental evidence.

See Zaller (1992) for a development of this logic.

Main Causal Mechanisms

  • Priming: Affects what you'll have at the top of your head when you make a judgment (see Zaller and Feldman 1992). So if the news covers poor economic performance, then leaps into an analysis of the president's performance, it's primed you to think poorly of the president.
  • Framing: (like Keck and Sikkink's TANs): media tells you how to think about something. Is it an indigenous rights issue, or an environmentalist story?
  • Agenda-setting effects: There's a "lead story" effect. If you see prominent place given to unemployment stores (early, long stories in a broadcast), you pay more attention to it. Caveat: Endogeneity. The media tries to select stories that will interest the public. So although the media can set the agenda doesn't mean they necessarily do--it's endogenous.