Politicians have also adapted to the media in their effortstoward policy-making. In terms of presidential behavior, the most common occurrenceis going public (Kernell, 1992). Going public is a term for when a presidentgoes over Congress’s head and appeals to the public directly, this is often doneusing a televised address as the outlet. The goal is to motivate or changepublic opinion; hopefully leading to legislators feeling pressured enough tofall in line with the president’s proposed policy. This strategy is risky,especially for an unpopular president, and tends to be more common in times of adivided government, when the presidency and the legislative branch ofgovernment are controlled by different parties.Having talked about some of the literature on what determines whatis put in the media; it is natural to turn to look at the effects that thiscontent has or can have on citizens. One culturally important account of mediaeffects states that those who directly control the media, immediately, andstrongly affect what citizens know, what they believe, and what they dopolitically.
This model, which has little valid empirical support, is known asthe hypodermic model of media effects, because it depicts the media asinjecting information and opinion into the unresisting public. Its effects arelike that of a drug that is put into the bloodstream.An example of such an effect is Orson Welles’s 1938 radiobroadcast of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, which featured a very realisticstaged report of an alien invasion in New Jersey. Although the inevitable subsequentmyth-making has exaggerated the real scope and intensity of people’s responsesto the broadcast, it is beyond dispute that significant numbers of people tookthe report as genuine and actually believed aliens were taking over New Jersey.
Despite the vivid examples of media influence and the widespreaduse of propaganda by governments the whole world over; disagreement does existamong citizens on basically all political issues. This suggests that government control over the media is not totallycomplete, that the media give people a diverse array of opinion, and thatpeople do not simply accept information given by the media as the gospel truth.This indicates a need to think differently about the effects of the media.The concept of agenda setting finds one of its most famous and concise expressions inCohen’s (1963) claim that the media “may not be successful much of the time intelling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling itsreaders what to think about” (p. 13). In other words, the hypothesis of agenda-settingclaims that while media content doesn’t have the full direct opinion-changingeffect that early research feared it to have; it does have great impact indetermining the issues people focus on and judge to be important.