Agenda Setting and the Asbestos Issue

The Media Role in Issue Definition


  • Kathleen K. McQuaid



Research on agenda setting suggests awareness of issues, discussion of particular issue topics, and identification of issues of current concern all tend to follow treatment of those issues in the media. Such research also contends that media attention to problems rises and falls independent of the severity of the problem. This study of the asbestos issue examines both the association between media definition of an issue and appearance of the issue on the public policy agenda, and the correspondence between background conditions and media issue attention. Results suggest qualified support for an issue redefinition hypothesis: replacement of one issue definition with another definition by the media is related to changes in issue publicity and issue agenda status. A second, media independence hypothesis, that media attention is only loosely associated with prevailing background conditions, was supported during both the rise and fall of the asbestos issue.