Rianne Dekker & Peter Scholten.
Accepted for publication in: International International Journal of Press-Politics
This study applies a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) design to examine how configurations of quantitative and qualitative aspects of media coverage associate with changes on the policy agenda. We analyze media coverage of sixteen focusing events related to Dutch immigration policies—an intractable policy controversy that is regularly under media scrutiny. In addition to the quantity of media attention, we take into account whether dominant framing in media coverage is contesting the current policy frame and whether the framing in the media is consonant. Our analysis indicates that frame contestation is a necessary condition for media effects. Media attention and frame consonance are relevant indicators of changes on the policy agenda only when the majority of media coverage is contesting the current policy frame. Furthermore, we found that in the case of intractable policy controversies, media framing can create specific dynamics, such as “David versus Goliath” dynamics where humaninterest framing of a single case challenges current policy, or “negotiation dynamics” where competing managerialist frames negotiate policy solutions. An integration of framing and agenda-setting literatures helps develop a better understanding of the occurrence of media effects on the policy agenda and how this effect takes shape in the case of intractable policy controversies.