News Framing And Cueing Of Issue Regimes Explaining Clinton's Public Approval In Spite Of Scandal

Dhavan V. Shah, Mark D. Watts, David Domke, David P. Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations

Abstract

During the period of exceedingly critical news coverage surrounding the Monica Lewinsky debacle, President Bill Clinton's job approval ratings were at some of the highest levels they reached during his tenure in office. Given this public response, many pollsters, pundits, and scholars argued that news coverage of the scandal must have been largely irrelevant to the public. Our view counters these claims by advancing a theory that recognizes that citizens' political preferences are influenced substantially by frames and cues provided by news media. To test our ideas, we draw upon three types of data, all from January 1993 to March 1999: (a) a longitudinal content analysis of major news media, (b) a time-trend of opinion polls on presidential job approval, and (c) monthly estimates of real disposable personal income, seasonally adjusted. Analyses reveal that news media emphasis upon and framing of certain issue regimes - specifically, coverage of the economy, general policy performance, and scandal - explained changes in mass evaluations of Clinton throughout his presidency, including the surprising trend during the "Lewinsky period." In particular, findings suggest that sustained support for Clinton can be explained as a complex counter-response - a backlash - to the framing of the scandal in terms of the strategic motives of conservative elites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-370
Number of pages32
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Volume66
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2002

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