Agenda-Setting Dynamics in Canada


156 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0958-2
DDC 302.23'0971'09048





Reviewed by Jay Newman

Jay Newman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. His
most recently published work is Biblical Religion and Family Values: A
Problem in the Philosophy of Culture (2001).


This technical scholarly monograph by McGill University political
scientist Stuart N. Soroka is a sophisticated contribution to the
“agenda-setting” research that has been developing since the early
1970s. Soroka is interested in the complex relations between three
agendas: the media agenda, the public agenda, and the policy agenda (of
politicians and bureaucrats). He makes use of empirical data and
advanced mathematical and statistical methods—most notably, time
series methods—to shed light on the causal interactions between these
three agendas; and he also gives some attention to real-world
indicators. He focuses on political communications in Canada and applies
his model to eight issues, including crime, inflation, and national
unity. Like other students of agenda-setting, Soroka is interested in
issue attributes, but he provides a new typology, distinguishing between
prominent issues, sensational issues, and governmental issues. Soroka
seems to be mainly concerned with defending, refining, and expanding the
agenda-setting framework. He is particularly interested in how this
framework can usefully integrate empirical studies of the mass media,
public opinion, and public policy formation. However, he does draw a
number of more concrete conclusions, most notably that there is indeed a
Canadian newspaper agenda as well as a Canadian public agenda.

Although the subjects Soroka addresses are clearly important, his
approach to them in this monograph focuses on methodological
considerations; and the book is addressed to social scientists who are
conversant with the mathematical and statistical methods that he
applies. In the course of his analysis, he makes some interesting
observations about such aspects of political communication as press
releases, parliamentary Question Period, and “leading” newspapers;
but general readers will find Soroka’s focus on methodological
concerns quite bewildering. Still, even a general reader can be
impressed by his conviction that something quantitatively precise can be
said about how the news media, politicians, interest groups, and other
participants in the political process influence one another. This book
belongs in all libraries with collections in communications, public
administration, and media studies and in the libraries of universities
with graduate programs in social sciences.


Soroka, Stuart N., “Agenda-Setting Dynamics in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 7, 2023,