Government Honors Thesis: Emily Van Duyn

Title: Media Framing and Democracy: A Model of Descriptive Media and the Power of Affected Voice

Author: Emily Van Duyn


Previous research shows a gross over-representation of male voices in articles on women’s issues including abortion, contraception, women’s rights, and Planned Parenthood during the 2012 election cycle. As diversity increases across the country, the question of balance in media sources and voice becomes increasingly relevant. This research explores the concept of media framing and included sources both theoretically and empirically. First, a literature review of democratic theory and public discourse helps develop a model of “descriptive media” that is attentive to diversity in voice and includes voice of the affected population. Second, an experiment tests the impact of descriptive/non-descriptive media on individual perception by isolating all male or all female sources in an article on abortion to reflect descriptive or non-descriptive media. Results suggest that sources in media framing affect how important an individual finds his/her own voice in public discourse. Additionally, results show that current trends in media framing, as seen in 2012 election coverage of women’s issues, are incongruent with public demands for inclusion of the affected voice.