Agenda Setting and The Media

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This week's readings from Kingdon related to agenda setting and answering the question of how and why actors in or around government attend to a given subjects. If there is a finite amount of resources for governance, it would seem important to understand why certain issues are placed on the "agenda" and to what factors create changes for the placement on said agenda. Kingdon uses an approach that combines interviews and case study work to determine the importance of these differing factors and concludes that while his evidence is mixed on many of the participants, the President and his appointed officials play the primary role in agenda setting.

This week's readings relate to previous offerings in that it attempts to analyze a particular process in the political system with a focus on the inputs that Easton (1957) describes as the starting point of his analysis for political systems. Some of the actors that Kingdon investigates, such as political parties and interest groups, have been discussed in previous readings and it is interesting to see if they might be a bigger factor in setting the agenda due to the changes that have occurred after Kingdon did his research. For example, political parties have become more polarized and political gridlock has affected public policy process (Skocpol 2007) but to what effect has this had on the issues that government has decided to deal with?

Media is a particular actor that Kingdon finds to have some but not as large effect on the agenda and I wonder if the changing nature of this particular has created a more significant role in deciding which issues should be attended to. Kingdon notes that because media often reports what the government does as opposed to ought to do and covers many stories without too much depth on the substantive concerns regarding each one, the agenda-setting nature of media is often over-estimated. He also points to different activities that the media participates in such as magnifying movements, influencing public opinion, and acting as a communicator for policy communities. However, the magnitude of these activities on the agenda seemed to be minor at best. With the changing nature of media and it becoming more social, has the dynamics that Kingdon found changed? Are there different activities that social media engages upon that might affect the agenda differently today?

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