From the population bomb to the birth dearth : the stages of acceptance of public opinion about changes in population

Anderson, Kathie Ann Ryckman
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Throughout much of the history of the United States people have treated elements of nature such as land, air, water, plant and animal life as unlimited resources. Although some individuals and groups have expressed concerns about some aspects of ecology throughout the history of the United States, the general public has recently become more aware of the impact of population on these resources. Since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, the general public has become increasingly aware, through the media, of the relationship between human population and the effects of population on land, air, and water. During approximately that same time period, researchers have studied the ways media coverage is "framed." Entman (1993) writes that framing "involves selection and salience. To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described" (p. 52). Researchers have also suggested various models and hypotheses for the relationship between media coverage and public attention for a range of political, economic, and social issues. The purposes of this study were to investigate the framing of the issue of population growth, to propose a stage model of the relationship between media coverage of an issue and public attention to that issue, and to test that model for the ecological issue of population growth. An understanding of the stages of acceptance for the ecological concerns relating to population and the framing of issues such as population growth may contribute to a better understanding of how social issues may reach the public agenda through the media. In an era when communication technologies seem to be changing so rapidly and these technologies seem to be reaching an increasingly fractionalized public, questions about the relationships between the media and the public will only increase in importance and complexity.