Agenda Setting, Public Opinion, and the Issue of Immigration Reform (Working Paper #162)

Johanna Dunaway, Sam Houston State University
Marisa A. Abrajano, University of California, San Diego
Regina P. Branton, Rice University

Abstract: While the importance of agenda setting has been well-documented (Baumgartner and Jones 1995, Iyengar 1991), it is unclear whether its affect holds for issues that may not be salient to a significant portion of the public. We explore this puzzle by examining the issue of illegal immigration, as it is one policy that traditionally impacts those living in states along the U.S.-Mexico border more so than for those residing in non-border states. Our analyses of newspaper coverage of immigration and Gallup public opinion data over a twelve-month period (January-December 2006) provide considerable support for the agenda-setting theory. The volume of news coverage did increase following the protests and as such, the public perceived immigration as an important problem facing the country. These findings hold for individuals residing in both border and non-border states, suggesting that the power of agenda-setting holds across issues that may not be nationally salient to the entire American public.

Working Paper #162 »