Delegating Issue Importance Judgments: An Experimental Test of the Agenda Cueing Hypothesis in an Online News Aggregator
Agenda cueing is a theorized mechanism whereby news consumers form judgments of relative social issue importance based on exposure to media coverage. Agenda cueing entails taking issue importance signals from surface features of news presentations, such as the mere frequency of the topic’s coverage. This study relies on an experimental stimulus simulating an interface of a major news platform, puts this hypothesis to the test in the context of an aggregated digital newsfeed, and investigates whether cues coming from different gatekeepers produce varying agenda-setting effects. The analysis reveals that interface features presenting the newsfeed as an algorithmic selection of mainstream media content (“top stories”) had a more powerful effect on individuals’ perceptions of issue importance than cues attributing newsfeed’s curation to other users of the news platform. The moderating role of gatekeeping trust is replicated only partially.