Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Alicia Mason


Political TV dramas have become increasingly popular with audiences as a source of entertainment after the 2016 presidential election, particularly programs depicting the functions of the executive branch of government (CenturyLink, 2017).

This research investigates how political TV dramas, as compared to network news coverage of U.S. foreign policy events, influence the perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs of U.S. audience viewers.

Using agenda-setting as the theoretical frame, this study employs a quantitative experimental design in order to measure participants’ pre- and post- attitudes on two variables; perceived issue familiarity and perceived issue importance of U.S. foreign policy events and U.S. diplomacy tactics. Participants additionally reported the perceived source credibility towards media formats.

Materials and measures received approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Voluntary participants were recruited from introductory communication and political science classes from a Midwest university. Participants viewed one episode of the political TV drama, Madam Secretary, as well as a news story covering a similar, real life event. The presentations were systematically rotated to avoid ordering effects and a control group was included for research integrity.

A survey instrument was used to gather the data related to the hypothesis and research questions advanced in the study. The findings report how audience attitudes are impacted by dramatic depictions of U.S. foreign policy events compared to nightly network news. Limitations, discussion and future directions will be addressed.



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