Susceptibility to Agenda Setting: A Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Analysis of Individual Differences
Who is most susceptible to media agenda-setting influence? The question has important implications for both scholarly research and the democratic process. From a theoretical point of view, the answer provides insights on the power of the media and the nature of the audience, two central issues of long concern to media scholars. If some members of the audience prove to be less vulnerable to media agenda-setting effects than others, then there is reason to believe that the media have a limited power on the sophisticated segments of the audience. Methodologically, the study of individual differences in the agenda-setting process provides a testing ground for a number of long-debated issues such as individual-level versus aggregate-level analysis, cross-sectional versus longitudinal comparison, and statistical versus substantive significance. Finally, policymakers may use the findings from this line of research to identify the “victims” of agenda setting (Iyengar & Kinder, 1987) and equalize the gap in issue salience among different segments of the public.