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Instagraming Issues: Agenda Setting during the 2016 Presidential Campaign

Sun, September 3, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hilton Union Square, Franciscan B


It is well known that the mass media can set the public’s agenda, particularly during political campaigns. In the social media era, now the public can also set the mass media’s agenda, resulting in intermedia-agenda setting. This study’s purpose is to examine the agenda-setting effects between user-generated Instagram posts and articles published in mainstream newspapers during the 2016 presidential primary period. Instagram is an online photo- and video-sharing social networking service that allows users to take and share pictures and videos. Users communicate largely with images that include a caption with no clickable links. Recently, Instagram has reportedly over 600 million monthly active users, growing faster in active users than both Twitter and Facebook. As a result of Instagram’s rising popularity, both citizens and journalists employed Instagram to communicate with others about the 2016 presidential campaign. It is unclear, however, how citizen’s Instagram posts influence political media coverage as well as how political media coverage influences citizen’s Instagram posts. To address this query, a content analysis will be conducted, recording the frequency of political issue mentions in newspapers articles and user Instagram posts throughout the presidential primary period. Cross-correlations will be estimated to examine the direction of the influence of the frequency of issue mentions in newspaper articles and Instagram posts. In agenda-setting research, cross-correlations are commonly used to empirically test the association between two agendas over time. We expect that user-generated Instagram posts communicate a unique issue agenda that influence mainstream media issue mentions. On the other hand, we also anticipate that user-generated Instagram posts follow political issues covered in the mainstream media. Therefore, we expect a reciprocal relationship between user-generated Instagram posts and newspapers on some of the top issues in the 2016 presidential primary campaign.