Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Fred Vultee


The issue ownership theory states political parties tend to emphasize the issues they are perceived to own in a bid to gain an advantage in public opinion. Although tested on different established political issues and in mass communicational settings, the theory has not been adequately tested for new and evolving political issues and on social media. This study attempts to test issue ownership theory and examine episodic and thematic media framing in Twitter conversations of US senators regarding the issue of digital privacy. Combination of computerized and manual content analysis is used to download and analyze all US senators’ tweets related to the issue. The results show marginal issue ownership effort by Republicans, and reverse issue ownership, also known as issue trespassing, effort by Democrats. The senators who were active about the issue in the Congress were also active on Twitter. The senators used comparatively more episodic framing in the beginning period and thematic framing in the middle period of the time frame. The results suggest senators, being a member of a deliberative political body, did not follow partisan rhetoric on digital privacy. On the other hand, the mass-personal nature of Twitter is related with the medium having comparatively little issue-owning cues. Future suggestions for issue ownership studies on social media settings and for non-partisan issues are discussed.