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

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 8 July 2022

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

  • Stefan Geiß Department of Sociology and Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

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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

Published:   Ahead of Print

Issue:   Enlightening Confusion: How Contradictory Findings Help Mitigate Problematic Trends in Digital Democracies (Forthcoming)

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v10i3.5375

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