Media framing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Changes to the U.S. tax system can have significant impacts on individuals, and the media is often where the public turns to for information and explanation of the changes. In 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which brought steep cuts to corporate tax rates and substantial changes to tax rates and deductions for individuals. However, even though this was a public policy change that affected almost all taxpayers, very little research has been done to understand how this tax reform was presented the public. The purpose of this research was to determine how the TCJA was framed and what sources were used in the coverage. This thesis used a mixed methods content analysis to look at 2017 coverage of the TCJA in online news articles from CNN, Fox News, and the Associated Press. This content analysis found partisan themes in the coverage of the tax reform bill from CNN and Fox News as well as a distinct partisan divide in the way the tax plan was presented, confirming prior perceptions of political bias, while also supporting the Associated Press as a less partisan outlet that focused on the tax plan itself. In addition to framing, this thesis also investigated sources and found the overwhelming inclusion of elite sources in the tax reform coverage, especially regarding Republican legislators. These findings supplement previous literature on the influence of elite sources and framing public policies, suggesting that media coverage of public policies like tax reform are likely to be tied to a partisan agenda.
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