Conspiracies and the 2016 Presidential election: An analysis of Tweets through the lens of agenda-setting theory
MetadataShow full item record
Type of Work68 pages
Presidential elections -- United States
The introduction of social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook provides users access to platforms in which they are able to express a broad variety of views. It has become increasingly difficult to ignore the expression of these views and beliefs, even the ones that might traditionally be considered niche. The theoretical perspective utilized in this research was agenda-setting theory, which postulates that news media are able to determine issue salience within the public consciousness. This thesis aims to understand (a) how Twitter users articulated conspiratorial beliefs about politics during the 2016 United States presidential election, and (b) how social media has changed the theory of agenda-setting by upsetting traditional dynamics between news media and consumers. User Tweets were collected from Twitter from five different dates between September 27 and November 7 2016, and theme analyzed based on the conspiratorial nature of the content as revealed by the beliefs expressed by individual users. Findings illustrate user beliefs that political forces both internal and external to the United States were conspiring to influence the outcomes of the 2016 election. This study indicates how users of platforms like Twitter can communicate individual belief systems in a way not previously possible under agenda-setting theory as it was previously defined, allowing users to interpret agendas set by news media and share those interpretations with specific audiences. The conspiratorial ideas expressed by Twitter users may point to specific anxieties and fears to be studied further in the future, in addition to a new understanding of agenda-setting theory in the digital age.