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Local Media, Public Opinion, and State Legislative Policies:Agenda Setting at the State Level

Local Media, Public Opinion, and State Legislative Policies:Agenda Setting at the State Level

Abstract

This study aims to explore first-level agenda setting at the state level. In particular, it examines the relationships among media coverage of local newspapers, state-level public opinion, and state legislative policies. In addition, it tests two state-level intervening factors: state legislative professionalism and state political culture. This study includes a geographic scope of eighteen U.S. states and a time period of twenty-two years from 1984 to 2006. The media agenda is represented by the news coverage of a state’s most popular newspaper. The public agenda employs a survey question asking, “What is the most important issue facing the state?” The policy agenda is defined by the number of bills that are introduced in the state house. This study finds a moderate and positive relationship between the newspaper agenda and the public agenda in five U.S. states from 1984 to 1997, a strong positive relationship between the newspaper agenda and the policy agenda in fifteen U.S. states from 1989 to 2006, and a weak positive relationship between the public agenda and the policy agenda in South Carolina in 1989 and 1990. State political culture moderates the degree of agenda-setting effects between the newspaper coverage and the legislative policies.
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