International Coverage, Foreign Policy, and National Image: Exploring the Complexities of Media Coverage, Public Opinion, and Presidential Agenda

Cui Zhang, Charles William Meadows III


This study employs first- and second-level agenda-setting to investigate how media salience, public opinion, and policy agendas influence the perceptions of foreign countries in the United States. Triangulation of research methods allowed examination of media coverage, public opinion and presidential public papers. Results indicate that salience promotes awareness of inflated significance for foreign countries named in U.S. media. The study identified a strong relationship between the foreign country salience in media coverage and in presidential public papers. The hypothesis for agenda-setting effects of policy agenda on public agenda was not supported. Regarding second-level agenda-setting effects, a correlation was found to exist among a negative tone in news coverage, presidential public papers, and public opinion. In contrast, no correlation was identified pertinent to the positive valence in the three agendas.

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