Agenda Setting and Social Media: Research Article Analysis #1


Sayre, Ben, Leticia Bode, Dhavan Shah, Dave Wilcox, and Chirag Shah. (2010) “Agenda Setting in a Digital Age: Tracking Attention to California Proposition 8 in Social Media, Online News, and Conventional News.” Policy & Internet 2 (2), accessed on DOI: 10.2202/1944-2866.1040

Purpose of the Research

In the 2008 election, the Internet took on a whole new role for campaigning. On YouTube there was a lot of support for Obama, for example: “Obama Girl” and the “Yes We Can” videos. This had led scholars to ask: is the professional media setting the agenda?  Is it the social media users posting content that influences the main-stream media, or the other way around?


To evaluate the effectiveness of social media websites in the context of media agenda-setting with respect to California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 was a resolution about defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in California state constitution with its passage. It was the most expensive social issue campaign in US history. The issue received a lot media attention, and very narrowly passed in the election. The issue did not end on election night in 2008 as the measure was challenged and 14 months later the California Supreme Court overturned this decision.

The data analysis in this paper covers this time period. A time series analysis using vector autoregression (VAR), which is derived from a set of equations of multivariate regressions. The variables were was conducted by comparing YouTube content to content found in traditional news media (newspapers).

The statistical analysis was divided into two groups based on the year the information appeared: 2008 and 2009.

Main Findings

The issue of agenda-setting is possibly more complicated than previously conceptualized. There is an inter-related effect between old and new media, but the results were inconclusive of which medium caused the other. The findings are not indisputable due to the nature of error in time series analysis.

The flow of information in 2008 was bidirectional between YouTube and Google News, as well as Google News and California Newspapers. It was unidirectional from California Newspapers to YouTube. In 2009 there was a unidirectional connection from YouTube to both Google News and California Newspapers. Additionally there was a unidirectional flow from Google News to California Newspapers.


Agenda setting seems to be very complex. At times the media is setting the agenda, while at other times social media is setting the agenda. There seems to be a rather complicated relationship between social media and its traditional media counterparts. It’s almost as if they inform each other, and at other times one of the mediums sets the agenda. There is definitely a need for more researchers to look at this puzzle as there are times where it could be unclear of who is setting the media agenda. This is especially true, when traditional media has been venturing into social media. Overall, I think this study is one that can be a springboard for more research in agenda setting.


About Mike Brownstein

I'm a Political Science MA student, and taking Tech 621 at Purdue University
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4 Responses to Agenda Setting and Social Media: Research Article Analysis #1

  1. Pingback: Reading Socially: The Washington Post Integration into Facebook | The Internet Industrial Complex

  2. Mihaela says:

    Good RAA.

    Amazing findings here. I don’t know if there will ever be a pattern in agenda setting again. Part of me hopes that there won’t be, and that diverse entities have the opportunity of setting the agenda.

    Your points on Bb.

    • Something else I’ve been wondering as a post-script: are there diverging agenda-setting interests? It seems like sometimes there is a disconnect between what is covered by traditional media and new media. For example the OWS protests.

      • Mihaela says:

        Of course! different things matter to different people! So let’s say topic X matters to me, but mainstream media gatekeepers refuse to include it in newspapers. What do you do to get the issue on the public agenda? These days, social media helps tremendously.

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