Agenda-setting effects as a mediator of media use and civic engagement : from what the public thinks about to what the public does
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This study attempts to explain reasons that underlie the positive correlation between media use and increased levels of engagement by relying upon the agenda-setting theory. The models set forth suggest the following sequence: News attention as influenced by several antecedent variables affects agenda-setting effects on the readers/viewers; in turn, agenda-setting effects trigger strong attitudes among the public and, finally, strong attitudes lead to various types of civic behaviors. The individual level of statistical analysis employed in this research is based on the 2004 ANES data along with a content analysis of stories from the New York Times and NBC’s Nightly News. Fit statistics of four models -- specifically, first-level newspaper, first-level TV, second-level newspaper and second-level TV -- indicated that all of the structural models were retainable, meaning that the hypothesized sequence reflects well the data. Especially, every direct effect along the chain - ranging from media use to agenda-setting, from agenda-setting to attitudes strength, and from attitudes strength to engagement - was significant. Indirect and total effects of agenda-setting for political and civic participation were all found to be significant. Agenda-setting effects operated as a mediator between media use and civic engagement, as hypothesized. In sum, the effects of agenda-setting may be viewed as related to both the behavioral and the cognitive levels so that: What the public thinks about something can be extended to what the public does about something.