Encyclopedia Entry

Issue Definition (Framing)

Gerald M. Kosicki

Issue definition, or framing, refers to the careful use of language or other symbols in public discourse. If individual frames reside in both mental structures of the mind and in political discourse, framing is a social process that links the two. As such, framing is an important construct in the measurement and understanding of public opinion. Elected officials, other key decision makers, special interest groups, journalists, scholars, lobbyists, and pollsters are among those interested in issue definition (and its measurement) because of its importance in public policy formation and acceptance in modern democracies. Public issues are inherently matters about which people disagree. There are often powerful financial interests backing one side or another. Other times, profound moral principles may be at stake. This accounts for the importance of public issues and the difficulties in studying them. Language used to describe political issues is not static. As the major political parties ...

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