Media Discourse and Public Opinion on Nuclear Power: A Constructionist Approach
Media discourse and public opinion are treated as two parallel systems of constructing meaning. This paper explores their relationship by analyzing the discourse on nuclear power in four general audience media: television news coverage, newsmagazine accounts, editorial cartoons, and syndicated opinion columns. The analysis traces the careers of different interpretive packages on nuclear power from 1945 to the present. This media discourse, it is argued, is an essential context for understanding the formation of public opinion on nuclear power. More specifically, it helps to account for such survey results as the decline in support for nuclear power before Three Mile Island, a rebound after a burst of media publicity has died out, the gap between general support for nuclear power and support for a plant in one's own community, and the changed relationship of age to support for nuclear power from 1950 to the present.