- The Nonlinear Effect of Information on Political Attention: Media Storms and U.S. Congressional Hearings
- Political Communication
- Volume | Issue number
- 34 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
Agenda-setting scholars have claimed that the typical punctuated pattern of governmental attention is a consequence of disproportionate information processing. Yet these claims remain unsubstantiated. We tackle this challenge by considering mass media coverage as a source of information for political actors and by examining the relationship between preceding media information and subsequent governmental attention. Employing data capturing U.S. media attention and congressional hearings (1996–2006), we find that the effects of media attention on congressional attention are conditioned by the presence of “media storms”—sudden and large surges in media attention to a given topic. A one-story increase in media attention has a greater effect on congressional attention in the context of a media storm, since media storms surpass a key threshold for catching policymakers’ attention. We find evidence that the influence of media attention on political attention is nonlinear; agenda-setting operates differently when the media are in storm mode.
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