Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

A Matter of Perspective? The Impact of Analysis Configurations on Testing the Agenda-Setting Hypothesis

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Abstract:  The media’s capacity to stimulate public concern and create a common ground for issues can counteract the fragmentation of society. Assessing the intactness of the media’s agenda-setting function can be an important diagnostic tool for scholars. However, the manifold design choices in agenda-setting research raise the question of how design choice impacts analysis results and potentially leads to methodological artefacts. I compare how the choice between 20 plausible analysis configurations impacts tests of the agenda-setting hypothesis, coefficients, and explanatory power. I also explore changes in agenda-setting effect size over time. I develop a typology of analysis configurations from five basic study design types by four ways of linking content analysis to survey data (5 × 4 = 20). The following design types are compared: three single-survey/between designs (aggregate-cross-sectional, aggregate-longitudinal, and individual-level) and two panel-survey/within designs (aggregate-change and individual-change). I draw on the German Longitudinal Election Study data (2009, 2013, and 2017). All 20 tests of the agenda-setting hypothesis support the hypothesis, independent of the analytical configuration used. The choice of analysis configuration substantially impacts the coefficients and explanatory power attributed to media salience. The individual-level analyses indicate that agenda-setting effects became significantly weaker at later elections, though not linearly. This study provides strong empirical support for the agenda-setting hypothesis independent of design choice.

Keywords:  agenda-setting; aggregation; design choice; data analysis; data linkage; methodological artefacts


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© Stefan Geiß. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.