Public Opinion, the Press, and Public Policy

By J. David Kennamer | Go to book overview
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ingful access to decision-making processes can achieve it if they just try hard enough.

Rather, in today's world, the only resolution to critical problems is through more information and not less, participation of more voices and perspectives not usually heard and not fewer, and more diverse and creative thinking in decision-making on policy and not the status quo.

Even the individualistic formula "one person, one vote" needs close ex- amination in order to determine real levels of equality. There have been in- stances in the recent past when the right of access to the polls was unequal, and the policy of gerrymandering is still hotly debated in some states.
In their study of Watergate, Lang and Lang ( 1983) found that public opinion played just such a role for those actors trying to impeach Richard Nixon.
Schlozman and Tierney ( 1986) found that of all organizations with a formal Washington, D.C., presence, 77 percent can be categorized as repre- senting business and professional interests. Statistical information, culled from the Census Bureau, revealed that only 16 percent of the general population could be defined as businesspersons or professionals at the time of the study.
In their review of the published agenda-setting research, Rogers and Dearing ( 1988) identified 138 studies as of early 1987.
See, for example, the Langs' concept of agenda building in The Battle for Public Opinion ( 1983): the typology outlined by Rogers and Dearing ( 1988); and the critiques from Gandy's study of information subsidies ( 1982); and from the political scientists Iyengar and Kinder ( 1987).
Some researchers are attempting to expand the agenda-setting model. For example, see the ongoing research project by the Northwestern University team focusing on the news media's agenda-setting effects on decision-makers and public policy (Cook et al., 1983; Protess et al., 1985; Leff et al., 1986; Protess et al., 1987) and the research on intermedia agenda-setting ( Reese & Danielian, 1989; Danielian & Reese, 1989).
Newspaper coverage is very similar. An unpublished pilot study of front- page stories in the New York Times found very few interest groups used as sources (reported in Danielian, 1989).


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