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Presidential Framing in the 21st Century News Media : The Politics of the Affordable Care Act
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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act came into existence at a time when the president’s ability to lead the public was in question, political polarization had intensified, and the media environment appeared ever more fragmented, fast-moving, and resistant to control. Under such circumstances, how can contemporary American presidents such as Barack Obama build and maintain support for themselves and their policies particularly as controversies arise?
Using case studies of major contests over how key elements of the Affordable Care Act would be framed and analysis of how those frames fared in influential and popular U.S. news sources, Hopper examines the conditions under which the president can effectively shape public debates today. She argues that despite the difficult political and communications context, the president retains substantial advantages in framing major controversial issues for the media and the public. These presidential framing advantages are conditional however, and Hopper explores the factors that help make presidential frames more or less likely to gain hold in the news today. More so than in the past, an element of unpredictability in this news environment means that in pursuing favorable messaging, the president and his surrogates may also generate some unintentional consequences in how issues are portrayed to the public. Presidential frames can evolve with unfolding events to take on new meanings and applications, a process facilitated alternately by supporters, opponents, and media actors. Still, media figures and political opponents remain largely reactive to presidential communications, even as some seek to publicize and exploit weaknesses in the administration’s narratives. A close look at these recent cases casts new light on the scholarly debate surrounding the president’s ability to persuasively communicate and challenges conventional wisdom that the 21st century media largely present an unmanageable news environment for the White House.
Presidential Framing in the 21st Century News Media speaks to current events in American politics, and provides numerous points for debate and discussion amongst readers, making it a compelling read for scholars of Political Science, Media Studies, Communication Studies and Public Policy.