Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Communication

Date of Defense

6-9-2011

Graduate Advisor

Alice Hall, PhD

Committee

Tian, Yan

Yoo, Jina

Abstract

This study analyzes content from eight leading newspapers in the United States and United Kingdom during ten months of the 2009 American health care policy debate, identifying emergent issue-specific health care frames that manifest themselves in key framing devices, like metaphors, exemplars, catchphrases, and depictions. This exploratory, quantitive frame analysis is conducted in a cross-cultural context to facilitate generalizable comparisons about how the news media in different countries frame social welfare policy through symbolic and rhetorical elements. A principal component analysis is used to reduce the health care-specific variables into four frames: access, choice, rising costs, and market competition. The multivariate analyses of covariance (MANCOVAs) reveal that there was a statistically significant difference by country for the access frame, which generally drew attention to the dilemmas facing the uninsured. The British articles feature references to universal health care coverage and the “horror stories” of uninsured Americans more frequently than articles from US papers. The analysis also finds a significant interaction effect for country and ideology on the choice frame, which highlighted the problems incurred by government-run health systems. Right-leaning newspapers in the US highlighted critiques of “socialized medicine” and “death panels” more than right-leaning newspapers in the UK. However, and unexpectedly, left-leaning newspapers in the UK emphasized these items more frequently than their counterparts in the US and more than right-leaning newspapers in the UK. This research begins to demonstrate that elite British and American newspapers employed different frames to characterize the recent health care debate in the US. These differences likely reflect the political fault lines that define debate regarding major social welfare issues in the two countries.

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