Mass Shootings, Gun Control, and Short Attention Spans

by John Sides on December 16, 2012 · 5 comments

in Media,Public opinion,Violence

http://i2.wp.com/www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2012/12/news-storiesguns.png?resize=549%2C399


My GW colleague Danny Hayes in the Polisci Perspective feature at Wonkblog:

This phenomenon – the media’s intense interest in, and subsequent boredom with, a public policy problem – is known as the “issue-attention cycle.” A dramatic event, such as a shooting, brings an issue to the media’s attention, prompts an avalanche of news, and then an inevitable decline in coverage. Coverage of natural disasters is a particularly good example. Unless new events continue to draw journalists’ attention, they move on to other, fresher stories. The public then turns its concerns elsewhere, too…
…The media find it difficult to construct a compelling narrative around consensus, so policy issues tend to receive sustained attention only when the parties are engaged in loud, public conflict. That’s a big reason why the “wild political donnybrook” over health care was the top story in the news for much of 2009 and 2010…whether and when politicians in Washington take up the issue in a serious way will determine how quickly gun control recedes from the news pages.

{ 5 comments }

Joe Grimaldi December 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Funny thing about how bad our problems seem 2 be, 1 small change would start a new direction that will take several generations 2 achieve. It would effect no one negatively-It would take a small percentage of money that will never be used in any of our lifetimes collecting dust, but it will allow people to build an economy so in time all can share in a life that we build for ourselves instead of a controlled life that the few built with no life of our own. We’ll start to see insanity/extremism decrease moving forward, a change we need now or forward will never happen for the people

AC December 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Firearms are resposible for mass shootings, in the same manner that passenger aircraft are responsible for 9/11.

Davis December 17, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Pretty much, ya.

Both were part of a system with numerous flaws which could be exploited by the determined and suicidal.

JNV December 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Except that aircraft are not designed solely to kill people, and they are not readily accessible to those who wish to own one. Other than that, your analogy is perfectly apt.

Michael LaCour January 8, 2013 at 1:43 am

Interesting Danny.

Has this changed over time? Is the media’s attention span shorter or longer than it used to be?

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