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Beyond policy agenda-setting: political actors’ and journalists’ perceptions of news media influence across all stages of the political process

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Although the relationship between politics and the media is a key topic in political communication research, the media’s role during times of routine policy-making has rarely been addressed. Furthermore, studies of routine policy-making have generally focused on one policy stage, usually agenda-setting, whereas few have analysed the media’s impact on the whole policy process. Still, the general view is that the news media matter in the early stages of the policy cycle but are non-influential during the formulation, implementation, and evaluation stages. This study queries these assumptions by taking a closer look at the news media’s influence on all stages of the political process at both the theoretical and the empirical level. A quantitative survey explored how members of the German Bundestag, administration officers, associations and NGOs, researchers, PR staff, and journalists involved with energy policy (N = 338) perceive the media’s influence across all policy stages. The results confirm that media coverage does indeed strongly influence the political agenda. However, the subsequent formulation, evaluation, and termination of policy stages are also affected, with only the implementation stage being less susceptible to media influence. The different groups of political actors and journalists surveyed mainly agreed upon the estimations of the strength of the media effects.
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Keywords: Media and political process; energy policy; policy agenda-setting; quantitative elite survey

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Communication Studies and Media Research, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich, Germany

Publication date: August 3, 2018

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