How Politicians’ Attitudes and Goals Moderate Political Agenda Setting by the Media

Alon Zoizner, Tamir Sheafer, Stefaan Walgrave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The media’s role in shaping the priorities of politicians, known as political agenda setting, is usually examined at the institutional level. However, individual politicians’ goals and attitudes are also expected to shape their level of responsiveness to the media. This study is the first to explore how individual politicians’ goals and motivations moderate their real-life level of responsiveness to the media. We examine this by using a unique sample of 197 incumbent politicians in three countries (Belgium, Canada, and Israel) and an automated content analysis of parliamentary speeches (N = 45,574) and news articles (N = 412,112). We find that politicians who view themselves as a conduit of the public (delegates) are more responsive to the media than those acting on their own judgment (trustees). Politicians involved in many issues (generalists) are also more responsive than specialists. Finally, no association is found between politicians’ negativity bias and their media responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-449
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.


  • MPs
  • automated content analysis
  • media
  • political agenda setting
  • political elites
  • representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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