This study tests the impact of protest news frames on audience support for a civil rights movement. Using a 3 × 2 experimental design, we explored how frames and visuals affect audiences’ criticism of police and protesters, support for, and identification with the movement. Findings showed that articles with a legitimizing debate frame increased support for protesters, identification with protesters, and police criticism compared to articles with riot and confrontation frames. Riot and confrontation frames increase criticism toward protesters, decreased support for and identification with the movement, and decrease police criticism. We also considered predispositions toward Black people, the police, and social movements in general as essential to understanding support. Results revealed prior levels of support for the movement influenced criticism of police action and support for and identification with protestors more than media frames. As such, we argue that preexisting attitudes about actors in a news story are essential variables to consider in protest coverage effects research.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication [Mass Communication & Society].
© 2021 Mass Communication & Society Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.