Skip to main content

Setting the Agenda: The Mass Media and Public Opinion


AUD $28.99

*Price and Tax

Setting the Agenda: The Mass Media and Public Opinion

Maxwell McCombs

ISBN: 978-0-745-63713-6 May 2013 Polity 198 Pages


  • Setting the Agenda describes the mass media’s significant and sometimes controversial role in determining which topics are at the centre of public attention and action. Although Walter Lippman captured the essence of the media’s powerful influence early in the last century with his phrase, “the world outside and the pictures in our heads,” a detailed, empirical elaboration of this agenda-setting role of the mass media did not begin until the final quarter of the 20th century. In this comprehensive book, Maxwell McCombs, one of the founding fathers of agenda-setting tradition of research, synthesizes the hundreds of scientific studies carried out on this central role of the mass media in the shaping of public opinion. Across the world, the mass media strongly influences what the pictures of public affairs "in our heads" are about. The mass media also influences the very details of those pictures. In addition to describing this media influence on what we think about and how we think about it, Setting the Agenda also discusses the sources of these media agendas, the psychological explanation for their impact on the public agenda, and the subsequent consequences for attitudes, opinions and behaviour.

List of Boxes.


Influencing Public Opinion.

Reality and the News.

How Agenda-Setting Works.

Why Agenda-Setting Occurs.

The Pictures in our Heads.

Attribute Agenda-Setting and Framing.

Shaping the Media Agenda.

Consequences of Agenda-Setting.

Mass Communication and Society.




‘This book is the culmination of an unusually focused and productive career spent exploring and elaborating the original concept of media agenda-setting into a complex and useful theory of media effects on public opinion. As such it can be compared to Gray’s Anatomy as a comprehensive and readable overview of hundreds of studies on this subject. Beautifully written and clearly organized, it is the definitive work on media agenda-setting by the founders of this branch of empirical research.’ – David Weaver, Indiana University

‘This book illustrates the wide applicability of agenda-setting theory, nicely putting together research findings regarding the media’s role in public opinion processes from different democracies across the world.’ – Toshio Takeshita, Meiji University