Does agenda setting affect diffusion? The case of gay rights in America
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Diffusion of innovation is a theory that describes how an innovation is adopted in a community or society. Much of the research in diffusion theory has been dedicated to exploring how hardware, products such as cell phones, computers and DVD players, has been either successfully or unsuccessfully in spreading through society. Less exploration has been done on why how social concepts such as abortion and civil rights have diffused. Agenda setting theory states that the mass media create the public issues agenda by selecting to expose some news stories over others. This paper attempts to study the nature of the diffusion of a social concept, gay rights, and what, if any affect agenda setting has on the process. 337 newspaper articles published in The New York Times and The Washington Post written gay rights during election years between 1988 and 2004 were content analyzed for overall article valence. Data was collected from national polls on gay rights during the same time frame. When these two data sets are graphed and compared the curves each describes are very similar. This data indicates a linking between newspaper articles in the national press and public support for gay marriage.