Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


This research looks at how newspaper mentions of mass shootings correlate with the percentage of people in the U.S. who view gun control as the most important issue facing the country. While the agenda-setting effect of the news media has been theorized and demonstrated for a number of different issues, scholars have yet to consider how the news media may set the agenda for the public’s view on the importance of gun control through its coverage of mass shootings. Utilizing designs put forth by Smidt (2011), Tan and Weaver (2007), and Winter and Eyal (1984), this paper seeks to fill that gap by showing the importance of news media discourse surrounding mass shootings on public opinion formation. While the results do not show a definite causal pattern between higher news media mentions of a mass shooting and a higher percentage of people who think gun control is important, this study does demonstrate that there is an important relationship between news media discourse and public opinion.