It takes three: How mass media coverage conditions public responsiveness to policy outputs in the United States*

Christopher J. Williams, Martijn Schoonvelde

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Democratic governance requires that policy outcomes and public demand for policy be linked. While studies have shown empirical support for such a relationship in various policy domains, empirical evidence also indicates that the public is relatively unaware of policy outputs. This raises a puzzle: Why do policy outputs influence public attitudes if the public knows little about them?. Methods: This study seeks to address this paradox by examining the conditioning role of media coverage. We rely on data derived from the Policy Agendas Project in the United States, allowing us to analyze the relationship between policy outcomes, public preferences, and newspaper content across a long span of time (1972–2007). Results: Our results indicate that public policy preferences respond to policy outputs, and that this relationship is strengthened by greater media attention to a policy area. Importantly, our findings also indicate that without media attention to a policy area, there is no direct effect of policy outputs on public demand for policy. Conclusions: Media coverage appears to be a key factor for public responsiveness to occur. In the absence of policy coverage by the media, public responsiveness to policy outputs is greatly reduced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1627-1636
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Volume99
Issue number5
Early online date19 Sep 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

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Williams, Christopher J. ; Schoonvelde, Martijn. / It takes three : How mass media coverage conditions public responsiveness to policy outputs in the United States*. In: Social Science Quarterly. 2018 ; Vol. 99, No. 5. pp. 1627-1636.
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It takes three : How mass media coverage conditions public responsiveness to policy outputs in the United States*. / Williams, Christopher J.; Schoonvelde, Martijn.

In: Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 99, No. 5, 11.2018, p. 1627-1636.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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