«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»
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IntroductionThe 2008 presidential election was historic not only in the change of political parities in the White House, but to public relations in a presidential election (e.g. Hendricks & Denton, 2010). Since the seminal agenda-setting study by McCombs and Shaw (1972), the influence of issue salience on the media, policymaker and public agendas has been explored by communication scholars extensively (e.g. Besova & Cooley, 2009). In a review of the agendasetting research, Tai noted the ever-growing areas of scholarly development in this area (2009).
One of the areas identified by Tai was the issue salience for presidential candidates (2009). The framing of individual issues by political candidates takes several forms and the application of it to public relations scholars has been noted by Hallahan (1999). Related to agenda-setting is framing. Entman defines a frame as “selecting and highlighting some facets of events or issues, and making connections among them so as to promote a particular interpretation, evaluation, and/or solution” (2004, p. 5) and this understanding has been the foundation for many discussions of media framing (e.g. McCombs, 2005, p. 546; Weaver, 2007, p. 143). The role of framing to agenda-setting, priming and other approaches has been noted often (Hardy & Jamieson, 2005; McCombs, 2005; Weaver, 2007). Furthermore, the role of frames produced by public relations professionals has become an area of greater focus for scholars (Murphee, Reber & Blevens, 2009; Reber & Berger, 2005).
In agenda-setting research, scholars have explored the relationships between various news media – called intermedia agenda-setting (Sweetser, Golan & Wanta, 2008; Boyle, 2001).
Another area of focus has become the relationship between campaign public relations tools and messages (e.g. Kiousis & Shields, 2008). These campaign products are referred to as information subsidies by scholars (Zoch & Molleda, 2006; Kiousis & Shields, 2008; Gandy, 1982). Kiousis and Shields explored intercandidate agenda-setting a presidential election by using policy position, speech and news release messages (2008). The researchers found support for issue salience consistently by media type for the news releases of the major party candidates, but failed to find support for consistency among candidates in speeches and issue policy papers (Kiousis & Shields, 2008, pp. 327-328). Intercandidate agenda-setting from one media type (speeches) to another (news releases) was also supported (Kiousis & Shields, 2008, p. 328). Tedesco considered candidate news releases and support for intercandidate influences for Democratic presidential candidates in 2004 (2005).
A study on several statewide races considered the influence of news releases and advertisements on the news agenda and found support for the influence of the releases, but mixed support for the influence of the advertisements (Kiousis, Kim, McDevitt & Ostrowski, 2009).
The researchers note the limitation of their results due to a lack of the consideration of time during the elections (Kiousis et al., 2009, p. 556). Dunn considered a statewide gubernatorial race using only news releases for intermedia and intercandidate analysis (2009). Support was found for intercandidate agenda-setting in only one two-month period during the ten-month study period studied using news releases and he suggested other researchers consider other forms of candidate communication as potential sources of influence (Dunn, 2009, p. 645). In a statewide race in 2002, Kiousis, Mitrook, Wu and Seltzer found support for the influence of issue salience in candidate news releases with media coverage, but mixed support for the influence of news release issues on the public agenda (2006, pp. 275-276). Political advertisements in another statewide race showed support for influencing issue salience with television news coverage (McCombs & Min, 2006). Considering a national election in Spain during 2004, Moreno, Kiousis, Humanes and Luisa did not find support for intercandidate influence with candidates 82 who hold divergent issue positions (2009, p. 24). A study done for two national elections in Taiwan found no support for the influence of candidate advertising on the news agenda (2007).
The study here adds to intercandidate and intracandidate (within a campaign) scholarship in considering the 2008 presidential election. Three elements are important to note: the study combines cross-lag and intercandidate agenda-setting for a U.S. general election, considers two different types of information subsidies through speeches and advertisements, and combines an examination of policy and personal issues.
RQ1: Was there consistency between the issues mentioned in the advertising messages and campaign speech messages for each candidate within each time period?
RQ2: Was there an influence of one campaign’s issue speech mentions early in the campaign on those in the later time period for the other campaign’s advertising messages?
RQ3: Was there an influence of one campaign’s issue advertising mentions early in the campaign to those in the later time period for the other campaign’s speech messages?