Peng and Zhu (2022) Unleashed an Agenda-setting Theory 3.0

Communication Research, one of the “Big Five” journals in the field, has recently published a study by CCR Associate Members Winson Peng and CCR Director Jonathan Zhu (Peng & Zhu, 2022) on public agenda dynamics in the U.S. over the last 60 years.

The study represents a latest addition to the research literature on agenda-setting that dates back to 50 years ago when McCombs and Shaw (1972) published their seminal Chapel Hill study. On the 20th anniversary of the classic, Jonathan proposed a zero-sum theory (Zhu, 1992), introducing issue competition as a primary causal mechanism for agenda-setting. Another 20+ years later, Winson and Jonathan teamed up with a group of computer scientists to replicate issue competition on social media (Xu et al., 2013) and add issue cooperation to form a coopetition mechanism on social media (Sun et al., 2014). In their latest chapter of the never-ending story on agenda-setting, Winson and Jonathan considered three mechanisms (i.e., competition, cooperation, and coexistence) but found competition to prevail over cooperation and coexistence (Peng & Zhu, 2022).

“We will hold an online symposium in early December this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of agenda-setting theory”, Jonathan disclosed. “There will be three generations of agenda-setting researchers to recount their personal engagements with this ever-growing theory. Stay tuned for the official announcement.”

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