Major and Classification
International Relations and Public Relations
Sheila Murphy, Ph.D.
Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
“Embedded in News Coverage, Mirrored in Public Opinion: Television News and the Deterioration of Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom”
The attacks of September 11th shocked the world and initiated a wave of television coverage about the wars that followed. Since previous research indicates that media coverage can influence the way the public thinks about certain issues, this study aimed to assess whether such television coverage impacted public opinion towards Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thirty NBC Nightly News stories were collected from the beginning, middle, and end of the war, resulting in a total sample size of 90 stories, which were each analyzed for positive or negative themes. Content analysis revealed that the proportion of negatively themed news stories regarding the war in Iraq increased between June 17, 2004 and January 15, 2009, while the proportion of positive stories decreased. Opinion polls from The Pew Research Center, which used nationally representative samples, served as an indicator of the general levels of public support for the war and demonstrated a decrease in support for the war over time. A Pearson’s r correlation test showed that there is a statistically significant relationship between the increased amount of negative news coverage and declining support for the war among the general public. These results complement existing studies and support both second-level agenda-setting theory and framing theory.