Mass Media as a Source of Public Responsiveness

  • Fabian Neuner (Creator)
  • Stuart Soroka (Creator)
  • Christopher Wlezien (Creator)



A sizable literature finds evidence of public responsiveness to policy change, across a range of salient policy domains and countries. We have a very limited sense for what drives this aggregate-level responsiveness, however. One possibility is that individuals learn at least part of what they need to know from mass media. Work tends to emphasize failures in both media coverage and citizens, but little research explores the prevalence of relevant, accurate information in media content, or citizens’ abilities to identify and respond to that information. Using the case of defense spending in the United States, we examine both, through an automated content analysis of thirty-five years of reporting, validated by a coding exercise fielded to survey respondents. Results prompt analyses of the American National Election Study (ANES), tracing both individual-level perceptions of and preferences for defense spending change over time. These results, supplemented by aggregate analyses of the General Social Survey (GSS), illustrate how media might facilitate—but also confuse—public responsiveness.
Date made available2019
Publisherfigshare SAGE Publications

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