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The conditions under which people accept or reject a message when they are aware of a range of alternatives are fundamental to this process, and are discussed in depth.We then discuss the ways in which such attitudinal shifts facilitate changes at the level of policy.In addition, they anticipate the way in which their words will be ‘mediated’ and reproduced in various media outlets.
We look at this both at the governmental level, in terms of change through policy action, and at the level of the individual, through commitments to behavioural change.
Through discussions of findings from a range of empirical studies, we illustrate the ways in which the media shape public debate and input into changes in the pattern of beliefs.
For example, in our work on disability we showed the relationship between negative media coverage of people on disability benefit and a hardening of attitudes towards them.
Further, we found that the media also severely limit the information with which audiences understand these issues and that alternative solutions to political problems are effectively removed from public debate.
These often relate to different political positions and can be seen as ideological if they relate to the legitimation of ways of understanding that are connected to social interests.
In this way, ideology (meaning an interest-linked perspective) and the struggle for legitimacy by groups go hand in hand.
But the relationship of media content to audiences is not singular or one-way.
Policymakers, for example, can both feed information into the range of media, and also attempt to anticipate audience response to the manner in which policy is shaped and presented.
Finally, we discuss the implications for communications and policy and how both the traditional and new media might help in the development of better informed public debate. Handling Editor: Andrew Livingstone, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom *Corresponding author at: Glasgow University Media Group, Adam Smith Building, Bute Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RT, United Kingdom. [email protected] This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2013, Vol. The media – television, the press and online – play a central role in communicating to the public what happens in the world.