Agenda Setting Theory Of The United States Government And Its 300 Million Inhabitants Essay

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The United States government and its 300 million inhabitants participate in an on-going national discussion of important issues, occurrences, and values through many channels, including politics, interpersonal communication, and the mass media. How does a specific item gain or lose momentum in this discussion? Agenda Setting Theory attempts to describe the forces dictating the perceived importance (salience) of specific issues, occurrences, or values by individuals (McCombs & Shaw, 1972, p. 177; Shaw, McCombs, Weaver, and Hamm, 1999, pp. 2-4).
Agenda Setting Theory describes how the mass media affect the public salience of issues, especially those of political importance, through the prominence and style of reporting on those issues (McCombs & Shaw, 1972, p. 177; Shaw et al., 1999, p. 14). The degree to which a person is vulnerable to the agenda-setting function of the mass media is related to need for orientation, or the degree to which one feels compelled to have an opinion on a subject. If one is uninformed on an issue of great interest, there is a greater vulnerability (Shaw et al., p. 10). An individual’s assessment of salience appears to be influenced by the degree of emotional reaction to a subject, with strong negative emotions indicating that an issue is of great importance (Miller, 2007, p. 712). Agenda Setting Theory maintains that the media provides an imperfect reflection of societal issues, often incorporating bias (McCombs & Shaw, p. 184). For complex
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