Political Priming and Agenda Setting in Twitter for the 2016 Presidential Election



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This study provides evidence and groundwork for testing the existence of priming and agenda setting effects in news coverage through social media by comparing national polling of issue importance and Twitter data. Content analysis of presidential candidates’ tweets with Twitter coverage of news stories of the 2016 presidential cycle were conducted. Also, positive and negative news stories about each front-running candidate, a comparison to national polling of the most important issues to voters and favorability ratings of the candidates were analyzed. This study found that in the issues covered, there are statistically significant correlations between news on Twitter and what polling revealed to be the most important issues on the public agenda. I found that in all issues: economics, foreign affairs, immigration, social issues, and guns, there is evidence to suggest that media priming can exist within social media, and not just newspapers and television as previous studies have concluded. These findings support that if a social media user engages in causal political news consumption via Twitter, there is a possibility that Twitter news coverage can prime the consumer to change the prominence of certain political issues.



Priming, Agenda setting, Twitter, Social media, Political communication, Presidential election