Professor Elizabeth Zechmeister (Vanderbilt University)
Friday, March 10, 2017
McGill University, Montreal
Priorities expressed by the public provide input into policy and act as benchmarks for assessing government responsiveness. In determining which issues top the national agenda, how important are personal experiences vs. information obtained from the media? One answer to this question emerges via a focus on security prioritization. This project develops an original framework that takes into account experiences, context, and the media as an agent for diffusing concerns about security beyond where crime is concentrated. Multi-level analyses of AmericasBarometer survey data from 18 countries show that news consumption increases security prioritization in relatively safe environments, where individuals otherwise would be less likely to place crime at the top of the political agenda. Importantly, the same relationship does not hold for fear of crime. In short, consumption of news shapes the national political agenda on security but, counter to conventional wisdom, does not cultivate fear where it would not otherwise exist.