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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Lee Wilkins

Abstract

The media plays three key roles in promoting good governance: watchdog, civic forum and agenda-setter. Despite decades of scholarship, there is little systematic effort to examine the empirical relationship between the media and governance. Moreover, scholars conceptualized governance with their interests and scope of work. Regardless of political system, this dissertation puts forth a new definition of good governance, and explores how controversies or issues framed by the media can be employed to initiate debates among citizens to enhance their own understanding of the political process, in particular the performance of the government.

The first study utilized framing theory to identify media frames in portraying four U.S. and Chinese governance issues which address the different dimensions of good governance. Results from the content analysis suggest that both Chinese and U.S. newspapers employed three major mechanisms to frame governance issues, i.e. thematic framing, responsibility framing and heavy reliance on official sources. The second study employed an experimental method by integrating the theories of framing and the spiral of silence, in particular, to investigate the effect of media framing governance issues on public perception and evaluation of U.S. good governance, especially the way that U.S. government handled two governance issues such as the Flint water crisis and the Syrian refugee crisis.

The core research question of this dissertation is: can media framing of governance issues influence one’s perception and evaluation of good governance? Based on two studies, this dissertation has found news framing of governance issues does have an effect on individuals’ opinion and evaluation on the performance of government. In particular, how media frame the governance issues influences the way individuals perceive and evaluate the U.S. government. Additionally, issue attention moderates the governance framing effects. Individuals who pay less attention to governance issues are more likely to evaluate the performance of U.S. government in a positive manner than people who pay more attention. At the same time, the more people are willing to self-censor, the more they will perceive the performance of U.S. government in a positive way. Implications for future trajectory of research are discussed.

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