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Subject: AEJ 97 JablonsP CTM The case of the environment, 1987-1994
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 9 Oct 1997 15:46:04 EDT
Content-Type:TEXT/PLAIN
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Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (744 lines)


The Case of the Environment, 1987-1994
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Unobtrusive Issues and the Agendas of the President, the Press, and the Public:
The Case of the Environment, 1987-1994
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Patrick M. Jablonski, Ph. D.
Shannon Crosby
Erica Bridges
John Daniele
Betsy Gray
Lisa Mills
 
The University of Central Florida
School of Communication
P.O. Box 161344
Orlando, Florida  32816-1344
(407) 823-9613 (Home)
(407) 823-2840 (Office)
[log in to unmask]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A paper submitted to the Communication Theory and Methodology Division of the
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Convention
Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, 1997
 
 
 
The Case of the Environment, 1987-1994
 
 
 
 
 
 
Unobtrusive Issues and the Agendas of the President, the Press, and the Public:
The Case of the Environment, 1987-1994
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A paper submitted to the Communication Theory and Methodology Division of the
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Convention
Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, 1997
 Abstract
        This study examines the relationship among the agendas of the mass media, the
president, and the public regarding the issue of the environment in the United
States from 1987 to 1994.  ARIMA time-series analysis is used in an attempt to
assess which factors drive the environmental issue agenda:  the public, the
press, or the president.  Most important problem survey results from multiple
organizations are aggregated into a series of 96 monthly time points to measure
the public agenda.  The media agenda is developed from a content analysis of the
frequency of coverage of the environment issue in The New York Times.  The
presidential agenda is developed from a similar analysis of the Public Papers of
the Presidents.  The three univariate time series are identified, estimated, and
diagnosed.  The white-noise component of each series is subsequently employed in
a bivariate cross-correlation analysis to address the research questions.
Results indicate that the presidential agenda was significantly negatively
correlated with the press agenda.  No significant agenda setting relationship
was detected involving the public.
 
 Unobtrusive Issues and the Agendas of the President, the Press, and the Public:
The Case of the Environment, 1987-1994
Introduction
        Longitudinal agenda setting research in the past decade has focused on a
variety of important public policy concerns, including the AIDS issue (Rogers,
Dearing, & Chang, 1991), crime (Jablonski & Gonzenbach, 1997), drug abuse
(Gonzenbach, 1992) and health care reform (Jablonski, 1996).  These issues vary
somewhat in the degree to which they impact the daily lives of the public.
However, not all issues share such prominent places of concern in the public
mind.  Some issues do not rise and fall in the public opinion polls, but instead
exist at the fringes of societal attention, rarely gaining national notice yet
at the same time never entirely disappearing.  An excellent example of this
phenomenon is the environment issue in the United States.  The purpose of this
study is to investigate which factors were important in driving the
environmental agenda in the United States from 1987 to 1994: the public, the
president, or the press.
Agenda Setting Research
        Agenda setting research traces much of its history to Walter Lippmann (1922),
who was among the first to note that the issues which concern the public are in
large part determined by the media.  Years later, Cohen (1963) asserted that the
media, while not successful in telling us what to think, were extremely
successful in telling us what to think about.  McCombs and Shaw's (1972) seminal
study examining the relationship between the issue agenda of the public and the
issue agenda of the press has spurred over a quarter century of research
attention.  According to the agenda setting hypothesis, the amount of public
concern for an issue is in part a function of media emphasis of that issue.
        Agenda setting has developed in various forms since 1972.  However, it is
useful to classify agenda setting literature in terms of the fundamental aspects
of causality that have been explicated by Babbie (1989) and others.  Almost all
agenda setting studies examine the correlation between the press and public
opinion regarding important issues.  The existence and effects of intervening
variables have likewise been examined.  However, investigations of the temporal
relationship between the press and public opinion have taken years to evolve.
        The development of time order studies of agenda setting arose from the
realization that agenda setting is a process.  Specifically, the influence of
the media on public opinion and vice-versa does not occur overnight.
Cross-sectional studies by definition cannot examine such a process.  Babbie
(1989) notes that cross-sectional studies of processes are akin to taking a fast
action photograph of a speeding car.  The picture only tells the viewer what the
car was doing at the moment the snapshot was taken.  Studies which take into
account the temporal relationship between two or more variables, moreover, give
researchers a better idea as to how the process of agenda setting develops.  In
other words, operating within the original McCombs and Shaw model, a researcher
would not be able to definitively indicate whether the press was responding to
public opinion or vice versa.
        Longitudinal studies of agenda setting have flourished since the late 1980s.
Kepplinger, Donsbach, Brosius, and Staab (1989) suggested that time series
analysis can assist in investigating the question of whether the press drives or
follows public opinion.  Indeed, Watt and van den Berg (1978) provide the
theoretical underpinnings of such an approach to the relationship between public
opinion and the mass media.  Kepplinger et al. (1989) rely on Watt and van den
Berg (1978) in identifying and extending four theories about this relationship:
     1) the mass media create public opinion, hence, the correlation
      between media content at one time will be more strongly correlated with
      public opinion at a later time than any other correlation;
     2) the mass media mirror public opinion, meaning that the correlation
      between media and public agendas at the same time should be stronger than
      any other correlation;
     3) public opinion creates media coverage, implying that the
      correlation between public opinion at one time will be more strongly
      correlated with public opinion at a later time than any other correlation;
     4) there is no significant correlation between media coverage and
      public opinion.
        Gonzenbach (1992) applied these four theoretical approaches to the
relationships among the president's public relations agenda, the media, and
public opinion for the drug abuse issue.  This study reported that there were
significant bidirectional correlations among each of the linkages involving the
president, the public, and the mass media.  As far as the drug abuse issue was
concerned, the president followed and drove the public agenda regarding drug
abuse.  The media mirrored, followed, and drove the drug abuse issue agenda of
the president.  Finally, the public mirrored, followed, and drove the drug abuse
agenda of the media.  This results in a triangular model of agenda setting,
where the traditional agenda setting relationship between the press and the
public is punctuated by the addition of a third variable.
        Figure 1 depicts just such an agenda setting model, where the life of an
important issue in American political society develops not only from the
relationship between the media and public opinion, but also from the
relationships between these two variables and the president or other policy
elite.  The direction and strength of these relationships may vary with regard
to the particular issue or setting.  For instance, the public may set the media
agenda, or vice-versa.  Moreover, the public and the media may each contribute
to the other's agenda.  Finally, two of these variables might be correlated
independent of the third variable.  One would expect this situation with issues
that annually exist on the national agenda, but lack the dynamism of major
public policy matters.
Figure 1.  A Triangular Model of Agenda Setting
 
 
  [--- Pict  Graphic Goes Here  ---]
 
 
 
        In a similar approach, Rogers, Dearing, and Chang (1991) utilized Granger
causality tests and multivariate correlations within an Autoregressive
Integrated Moving Averages (ARIMA) framework to investigate the
inter-relationships of real-world cues, the science agenda, the media agenda,
the polling agenda, and the policy agenda for the public issue of AIDS.  ARIMA
allows the researcher to identify and statistically control for the presence of
autoregressive terms in the model.  The inclusion of agendas other than the
media indicates that the life of an issue may be influenced by a number of
factors in addition to the media and the public.
Public Opinion and the Mass Media
        There are indications that the media-public relationship is not unidirectional
(Ansolabehere, Behr, & Iyengar, 1993).  A myriad of studies and reviews examine
this linkage.  Many agenda setting studies generally conclude that the mass
media impact public opinion and vice-versa.  In the years following McCombs and
Shaw's (1972) study, several researchers examined the effect of the media on
political opinions and attitudes.
        Weaver et al. (1981) found that the mass media contribute to public evaluations
of political candidates, and not just images.  The media additionally influence
public opinion by choosing to ignore certain issues.  Breed (1958) was among the
first to demonstrate that media decisions in the newsroom affect what issues
become important.  Page and Shapiro (1992) also claim that public opinion about
unemployment and other issues shifted in relationship to the tone of media
coverage.  Specific to the environmental issue, Hester and Gonzenbach (1994) and
Ader (1995) reported a significant relationship between the media and the
public.  However, the Ader study did not model the data to avoid problems with
autoregression, possibly resulting in flawed testing of hypotheses.  Neither
study examined the effects of political elites on the agenda setting
relationship.
        The relationship between the mass media and public opinion is not always
unidirectional.  Fan and Norem (1992) argue that assessments of the public
sentiment by the press and public opinion polls may direct press coverage of
important issues.  Rogers and Dearing (1988) contend that there is a "two-way
mutually dependent relationship between the public agenda and the media agenda"
(p. 571).  The public may direct and focus media coverage, which in turn may
affect public opinion.  Conversely, mass media coverage might drive public
opinion, which in turn affects subsequent coverage.  This phenomenon is
demonstrated by the findings of Kepplinger et al. (1989).  They report that
press coverage about German Chancellor Helmut Kohl preceded public opinion.
Most important, media coverage also followed public opinion, albeit with a
different tone.
The President and Public Opinion
        Public opinion is not solely affected by the mass media.  Political elites,
interest groups and major organizations may also affect the public agenda (Shaw
& McCombs, 1989).  Graber (1982), Behr and Iyengar (1985) and others acknowledge
that the president is the most prominent American political figure and receives
the plurality of media and public attention.  Similar to the interaction of the
press and public opinion the president likewise affects and is affected by the
press and public opinion.  Converse (1987) claims that public opinion affects
the president and policy-making.  The opposite effect can be true as well.  The
president can alter the public agenda by advocating certain legislative or moral
positions in oral, written, and symbolic communications (Chapel, 1976).  As the
focal point of American politics (Denton & Hahn, 1986), the president has been
granted powers that make it possible to set the public agenda (Waterman, 1989).
        While Converse (1987) and others claim that public opinion affects the
president and policy-making, the opposite effect may be simultaneously observed.
Page and Shapiro (1992) conclude, "Part of the estimated impact of popular
presidents probably reflects a reciprocal relationship, in which
popularity-seeking presidents take a stand in response to public opinion or in
anticipation of it" (p. 349).  Page and Petracca (1983) likewise suggest that
the linkage between the president and public opinion is reciprocal.
Ansolabehere, Behr, and Iyengar (1993) note that the television era has elevated
the importance of mobilizing public opinion in support of the president.  The
president uses a myriad of persuasive tools (Graber, 1982), including, but not
limited to, public statements, press conferences, and proclamations (Zernicke,
1990; Shull, 1983) which are aimed at the whole country, not just the immediate
audience (Ansolabehere, Behr, & Iyengar, 1993).
        Moreover, the president's importance, by the very nature of his or her
responsibilities, provides an opportunity to regularly communicate a specific
agenda (Behr & Iyengar, 1985) which has a significant effect on public opinion
(Gilbert, 1981).  As Miroff (1976) concludes, "Public awareness of issues is
largely governed by the problems the president has defined and the battles he is
engaged in fighting.  His role in the public space is so prominent that it is
sometimes hard for others simply to be seen on any large scale" (pp. 99-100).
        Further, the White House also pays close attention to public opinion polls
communicated by the media (Bogart, 1985; Bradburn & Sudman, 1988; Hinckley,
1990; Spragens, 1979).  Modern presidents regularly retain personal pollsters in
order to stay in touch with the electorate, and not just with interest groups
(Graber, 1982).  The public therefore may communicate with the president
indirectly, through answers to public opinion polls.  Media use of public
opinion polls is also increasing (Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1992), perhaps
solidifying the role of the media as an emissary between the public and the
president.
The President and the Mass Media
        Similar to the previous relationships, the media and the president may
influence each other over time (Denton & Hahn, 1986).  Put simply, the media can
influence the presidential agenda while the president can influence the media
agenda.  The media provide the president with exposure to the public and vice
versa (Graber, 1982; Edwards & Wayne, 1985).  In addition, the press covers
everything a president does, adding to the considerable amount of news coverage
devoted to the White House (Orman, 1990).  This also enlarges the typical
audience for any one presidential message (Denton & Hahn, 1986).  More
important, a president may transmit a list of priorities to the public and
Congress at the start of an administration through the mass media (Light, 1991).
This is an important ability, especially if the role of the president is to
shape national attitudes into a coherent policy (Powell, 1986).
        Another major characteristic of the press-president relationship is that the
president provides news stories.  The president may therefore play a major role
in agenda-building, or influencing the news media agenda (Gilberg et al., 1980;
Lang & Lang, 1981; Weaver & Elliott, 1985; Turk, 1986; Robinson, 1990).  Levels
of press coverage are very often affected by the president's explicated agenda.
Presidents can create news by holding press conferences and photo opportunities,
among other ceremonies (Ansolabehere, Behr, & Iyengar, 1993).  Presidents use
pseudo-events and other communication opportunities to influence news coverage
(Denton & Hahn, 1986, p. 275).  Indeed, Behr and Iyengar (1985) found that a
single presidential speech on a given issue can result in as many as ten
stories.
        The agenda-building process can work in the other direction as well.  Cobb and
Elder (1972) posit that the mass media play a huge role in elevating issues to
the presidential agenda.  Therefore, the mass media can directly affect the
presidential agenda.  Schmid (1992) demonstrates that the president can be
directly affected by mass media coverage of terrorism.  Indeed, terrorism was
elevated to the presidential agenda in the early 1980s after high degrees of
press coverage.  Weaver's (1990) attempt to define the direction of influence in
the press-politician relationship concludes that the linkage's characteristics
are largely case-specific.  In some situations, the press have the upper hand,
while in other situations, the politicians drive the agenda
Issue Obtrusiveness
     Another major aspect of agenda setting research focuses on issue
obtrusiveness.  Obtrusiveness is defined as the amount of personal experience
people can have with an issue (Demers et al., 1989).  The importance of
obtrusiveness in media effects is rather obvious.  For example, people directly
affected by crime do not need media coverage to tell them that crime is
important.  Typically, theory indicates that for less obtrusive issues the
potential for agenda setting increases.  Two models have evolved from research
surrounding issue obtrusiveness and agenda setting.  They are, the obtrusive
contingency, which holds that agenda setting effects decrease as the
obtrusiveness of, or amount of personal experience with, an issue increases; and
the cognitive-priming contingency, which posits just the opposite--that agenda
setting effects increase as obtrusiveness increases (Demers et al., 1989).  The
environment is not an obtrusive issue as the public has little direct experience
with it (Zucker, 1978; Eyal, Winter, & DeGeorge, 1981; Behr & Iyengar, 1985;
Hester & Gonzenbach, 1994; Ader, 1995).  Hence, one would expect that the issue
could be very much driven by the mass media.
     Consequently, the environment has been the subject of a number of agenda
setting studies.  Hester and Gonzenbach (1994) found a significant agenda
setting relationship between the electronic media and the public regarding the
environment which occurred independent of real world cues (Behr & Iyengar,
1985).  Ader (1995) reported a similar relationship between the coverage of The
New York Times, real world cues, and the public agenda regarding the
environment.  Atwater, Salwen, and Anderson (1985) found a basic agenda setting
effect as did Brosius and Kepplinger (1990).  Finally, Protess et al. (1987) did
not find an agenda setting effect on public opinion in their examination of an
investigative report about toxic waste in Chicago.  However, they did detect
media influence on political elites in the area.  The role of higher level
political elites in environmental agenda setting has not received much research
attention.
Research Questions
        This work draws most specifically upon the time series investigations of agenda
setting by Gonzenbach (1992), Rogers et al. (1991) and Kepplinger et al. (1989).
This study seeks to address 3 basic questions about the roles played by the
press, the president, and public opinion with regard to the environment:
     RQ1) Do the mass media create public opinion or does public opinion
         determine the media's agenda?
     RQ2) Does the president's agenda create the media agenda or does the
         media agenda set the president's agenda?
     RQ3) Does the president create public opinion, or does public opinion
         create the president's agenda?
Method
Data
        Public opinion.  This study combines multiple, similarly worded "most important
problem" survey questions from 13 different public opinion organizations in
order to measure the public agenda.  The percentages of environment being
mentioned as the most important problem were tracked from January 1987 until
December 1994.
        The mass media.  This study utilizes a content analysis of the media
environment agenda in The New York Times.  The New York Times was used because
it is the elite newspaper in the United States and is fairly robust to the
proximity effects of major issues (Winter & Eyal, 1981).  The unit of analysis
was individual articles about the environment.  The Lexis/Nexis-based New York
Times listing was used.  The search string which was utilized was, " Environment
or endangered species or global warming or ozone layer or toxic waste or air
pollution or water pollution or recycling and date aft December 1986 and date
bef January 1995."  Only articles in the national news and editorial sections of
the New York Times were recorded.  Articles from the Connecticut Weekly Desk,
the Long Island Weekly Desk, the Magazine Desk, the Metropolitan Desk, and the
Financial Desk were excluded because those items may reflect only regional or
local interest.  Letters to the editor and book reviews were also excluded.  In
addition, to avoid duplication of articles, news summary pieces were excluded
from the analysis since they merely summarize articles already in that day's
newspaper.  Each story was content analyzed to ascertain the article's
relationship to the environment issue.
        Finally, the monthly frequency of environment articles was used primarily
because this method was more efficient in terms of time and money than
calculating column inches or minutes of coverage.  The use of frequency counts
has been found to be a fairly reliable measure of media content, and is
comparable to the tabulation of column inches (Stone & McCombs, 1981).
        The president.  Similarly, the presidential agenda is measured via the public
relations efforts of the presidents.  The Public Papers of the Presidents was
utilized to determine the monthly frequency of mentions of the environment issue
by the sitting president.  This resource is also included in the Nexis library.
The search string utilized was, "Environment and date aft December 1986 and date
bef January 1995."  The retrieved documents were analyzed for their relevance to
the research topic.
Statistical Analysis
        This investigation utilizes Autoregressive Integrated Moving Averages (ARIMA)
time series analysis as popularized by Box and Jenkins (1976).  ARIMA  is an
excellent time series analytical tool since it calculates the first- and
second-order autoregression within each series.  In other words, for a given
series, the error terms or residuals at different points in time should not be
correlated.  When this occurs, the estimated regression model fits the data very
well, since the model underestimates the true variability of the residuals.  The
result may be a deceptively inaccurate model, which in turn leads to inaccurate
testing of hypotheses.  ARIMA analysis is used to determine and model the errors
which may make a time series largely unpredictable.  In effect, the ARIMA
procedure increases the accuracy of the forecast model, resulting in more
accurate hypothesis testing.
        ARIMA analysis typically models three processes:  autoregression (AR),
differencing to eliminate the integration (I) of the series, and moving averages
(MA).  All three are based on Box and Jenkins' (1976) concept of random
disturbances or shocks.  Between two observations in a series, a disturbance or
shock occurs that may alter the series.  These disturbances can be modeled using
ARIMA techniques within such software packages as SPSS or SAS.  "The most
general ARIMA model involves all three processes.  Each is described by a small
integer.  The general model, neglecting seasonality, is traditionally written
ARIMA (p, d, q ), where p is the order of autoregression, d is the degree of
differencing, and q is the order of moving average involved" (SPSS, Inc., 1988,
p. B-31).
        The ARIMA procedure requires the researcher to construct the best model for any
given series.  Box and Jenkins (1976) conceptualized three steps in this
process:  identification, estimation, and diagnosis, which is repeated until the
model is satisfactory.  Identification is the most subjective step in the
analysis.  The researcher must determine the p, d, q integers in the ARIMA
process governing the series using a plot of the data.  Once the p, d, q
integers are determined, the ARIMA procedure estimates the coefficients of the
given model.  ARIMA modeling additionally allows the researcher to examine the
relationship between two series.  In fact, this is an easy step which only
requires the researcher to input the series to be analyzed.  The output is a
cross-correlation analysis, which compares the two series to determine if the
series are correlated at any points in time.  In other words, the independent
series at month k is compared to the dependent series at all months so that the
different correlations can be calculated appropriately.  The correlations are
calculated in this manner for all months of both series.
        In the present study, ARIMA modeling is used to identify, estimate, and
diagnose each of the three univariate time series.  Cross-lagged correlations
were then calculated for all bivariate permutations of the three variables:  the
press, public, and the president (McCleary & Hay, 1980).  Six-month lags were
calculated in each direction for the cross-lagged correlations.  While Winter
and Eyal (1981) determined that a four to six week span is optimal, Stone and
McCombs (1981) found that the process of adapting media changes in the public
agenda may take between two and six months.  Shoemaker et al. (1989) reported
that the optimal effects were several weeks and three months preceding a poll.
Meanwhile, Kepplinger et al. (1989) found optimal effects three months prior to
the poll.  In other words, support was found for the immediate agenda-setting
effects of the media as reported by Shoemaker et al. (1989) and Erbring et al.,
(1980) in addition to the long-term (6-month) correlations found by Kepplinger
et al. (1989) and Brosius and Kepplinger (1990).  Hence, the media affect public
opinion and vice-versa, though to different degrees and perhaps at different
points in time.
Results
Frequency Analysis
        The data indicate that the environment issue variously rose and fell in
prominence in each of the agenda measures from 1987 until the end of 1994.  The
scale of importance accorded the issue, however, is lower than that observed for
other major national issues such as crime, AIDS, health care, or drug abuse.
Figure 2 represents the agendas for each variable from January 1987 until
December 1994.
        Public opinion.  The environment does not appear to be viewed as the most
important problem by very many Americans between 1987 and 1994.  This may be a
result of the unobtrusive nature of the issue.  Other issues may impact the
public more directly or more forcefully, pushing the environment away from the
upper half of the public agenda, but not off the agenda entirely.
        A key event in the life of the issue was the Exxon Valdez disaster in March
1989.  Subsequent public opinion polls indicated that the environmental issue
was fairly important, with 10.5% of the mentions as the country's most important
problem by the end of March, 1989.  However, the issue dropped in importance
  rather precipitously by the end of 1989.  The issue more or less declined in
significance until 1995.
        The New York Times.  Coverage in The New York Times appears nearly cyclical in
nature, with occasional increases in the number of articles about the
environment throughout the time period of this study.  Interestingly, the
results of the content analysis portion of this study do not match those
reported by Hester and Gonzenbach's (1994) analysis of the environmental issue.
Their investigation utilized television news as the media measure.  The
difference may explain why the Valdez disaster does not result in much influence
on the media measure utilized here.  Perhaps the first major wave of print media
coverage did not tie the oil spill to the environmental issue.  This would make
some degree of sense, given Hester and Gonzenbach's (1994) assertion that the
environmental issue is an electronic media phenomenon and lends itself to
compelling video images.  The print media are not able to rely on visual images,
and instead must base their coverage in larger part on the importance of the
events themselves.
        Presidential Agenda.  Presidential attention to the environment issue, as
measured by the Public Papers of the Presidents, remains stable and low
throughout the time period of this study, except for at the end of 1991.
Attention to the issue increases after the Valdez disaster and other
environmentally-oriented events unfold, such as the impact of the Gulf War fires
and oil spills in 1991.  Interestingly, it appears as if the president and The
New York Times have an inverse relationship at a number of points in time.
Increases in environmental coverage appear to be followed by presidential
inattention.  Subsequently, periods of heightened presidential attention appear
to spur media inattention.
ARIMA Modeling
        Univariate series analysis.  The nature of the three time series was explicated
with the ARIMA analysis.  Table 1 demonstrates the ARIMA model terms for each
series, along with the estimates of how well each model fits the corresponding
data.
Table 1
ARIMA Analysis of Univariate Series
 
Series                          ARIMA term             Coefficients             t ratio         p
 
Public Opinion                  (0,1,0)
New York Times          (1,0,0)                f1 =  .30                3.00            .003
President                       (1,0,0)                f1 =  .41                4.29            .000
 
        The ARIMA model for the univariate public opinion series indicated a
differenced, first-order moving average process:  (0,1,0).  The ARIMA models for
the presidential time series and The New York Times indicated strong first-order
autoregressive processes:  (1,0,0).
        ARIMA cross-correlation analysis.  Once the ARIMA model for each univariate
series is determined, the bivariate relationships among the variables can be
studied.  The bivariate analysis takes each modeled series and examines the
cross-lagged correlations for each possible paired combination (Gonzenbach,
1992; Vandaele, 1983).
        The cross-lagged correlation process treats one of the series as dependent and
the other as independent.  The analysis examines the relationship between the
independent series at a given month k and the dependent series for each of the
12 months prior to k and after the month k, which becomes known as the
synchronous or mirrored relationship.  Hence, the relationship between, say,
public opinion (the dependent series) at month k and the president (the
independent series) at a prior month, k-4, is referred to as the relationship of
the president at lag -4 upon public opinion (Gonzenbach, 1992).
Cross-correlation analysis of the pre-whitened, univariate series reveals the
correlations among the media, the public, and the president.  As Table 2
indicates, there are only two significant relationships detected for all of the
cross-lagged correlations for the three variables.
Discussion
        This investigation indicates that newspaper coverage of the environment in the
United States from 1987 to 1994 does not have an agenda setting effect upon the
public.  There is similarly no relationship on the press from the public.
Further, the environmental agendas of the public and the president likewise have
no significant relationship over time.  The only significant correlations
resulting from the analysis in this study occur between the press and the
president.  However, the correlations are negative.  This means that the
president tends to behave directly opposite from the coverage of the New York
Times at a lag of +2.  Hence, increased coverage of the environment in January
is correlated with decreased presidential attention to the environment in March.
The research questions forwarded earlier can all be answered negatively in
fairly definitive fashion, given the lack of significant findings from the cross
correlation analysis.
        The results reported here do not support the significant agenda setting
relationship reported by Ader (1995).  Perhaps the difference between the two
investigations lies in the fact that the present study utilized ARIMA time
series modeling to guard against autoregression.  Once the data were modeled, no
agenda setting or agenda building relationship could be detected.  In addition,
this study provides a compelling contrast to the results of the Hester and
Gonzenbach (1994) analysis of the environment and television news coverage.  The
results here may on their face appear to fail to support their conclusions.
However, the fact that the print media appear to lack a significant agenda
setting relationship with the public may confirm the finding that the
environmental issue is driven by quickly-moving visual events (Hester &
Gonzenbach, 1994).
        This study also fails to detect a significant agenda building relationship
between the president and the media.  The media seem to take their cues on the
environmental issue from events, not the moves of the president nor the mood of
the public.  Real world cues, as operationalized in other studies, are not
necessarily event-oriented and may not provide a very good explanation for media
behavior regarding the environment.  The addition of the president to this
investigation serves as a differential replication for prior research which only
examined the relationships among the press, the public, and real world cues.
        Perhaps the results reported here should not be surprising.  The environment is
important to many Americans, but rarely rises high enough on the public agenda
to gain (or warrant) sustained notice by the media and by politicians.  The
media in turn may have their own environmental agenda independent of the
president and the public.  Of much more importance are the implications of the
findings reported here for the conceptualization of obtrusive issues.  Perhaps
issues can be so unobtrusive that they fall quite low on the agendas of the
public and the president.  One cannot detect an agenda setting effect if there
is no agenda to be set.  The environment seems to fit this type of issue.  The
public has so little direct experience with the issue that they rely on media
accounts of events for information.  However, since there is little contact with
the issue, only subsequent media accounts of later events can sustain interest
in the environment.  Once those events fade from the front page, the issue fades
as well.  In this view, the media may keep relating stories about the
environment, but the public and the president are paying attention to other
issues and events.
        One major shortcoming to this study is that it draws bivariate comparisons
among the series, not multivariate comparisons.  The simultaneous effects of
third variables cannot be determined and controlled (Fan, 1988).  This study
provides a picture of the agenda relationships regarding the environment, but it
does not provide a description of the existence of intervening variables or the
interaction effects of multiple agendas.
        Future research should utilize multivariate analysis to ascertain if there are
any interaction effects among the agendas included in this analysis.  In other
words, a multivariate analysis would enable the researcher to draw better
conclusions about the existence and impact of intervening variables.  In
addition, such an analysis would indicate the relative strengths of the
individual relationships depicted in the present study.  This would enable
determinations about which agendas exert the most influence on the other agendas
at specific points in time.
        Future research should combine the media agenda as operationalized here with
the electronic media agenda developed by Hester and Gonzenbach (1994).  Perhaps
this aggregate measure would be a more representative variable than merely using
the print media and electronic media separately.  In addition, future research
should strive to develop better real world indicators of the environment.  The
issue is so unobtrusive that measures used in previous research do not appear to
have any kind of possible impact on the public, such as the amount of toxic
chemicals released into the environment.
        Future researchers should also strive toward assimilating the growing body of
agenda setting research on individual issues.  Perhaps a taxonomy of
obtrusiveness can be developed from such an effort.  A more important project
for future research would be to aggregate the findings of longitudinal studies
of single issues which utilize similar methods.  The resulting multiple issue
time series model might give researchers a much better picture of why issues
fall off of agendas.  The single issue model as used here does not take into
account the influence of issues such as health care on the environmental issue
as they (and other issues) fight for the finite agenda space of the press, the
president, and the public.  This approach could give agenda setting theory a new
stage in development by relating the original cross sectional multiple issue
studies of years ago back to the longitudinal studies of today.
 
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