The Mass Media, Public Opinion, and Lesbian and Gay Rights

Posted: 14 Nov 2010

Date Written: December 2010


Democratic theorists assume that government policy responds to public opinion. But public opinion may be influenced by other political actors through the mass media instead. Scholars agree that the news media have become more attentive to and supportive of lesbian and gay rights over time, and they identify several factors as explanations for the change. While events, the gay rights movement, official statements, and government action may have had an effect, coverage was contingent on the decisions of news institutions and media owners to devote attention to them. There have been few studies on the media's impact, but decisions to cover the gay rights movement appear to have moved public opinion. Despite setbacks, continued debate over gay rights is likely to generate favorable media attention and lead to increased public support for lesbian and gay rights over time.

Suggested Citation

Chomsky, Daniel and Barclay, Scott, The Mass Media, Public Opinion, and Lesbian and Gay Rights (December 2010). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 6, pp. 387-403, 2010. Available at SSRN: or

Daniel Chomsky (Contact Author)

Temple University ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Scott Barclay

University at Albany ( email )

Vestal Parkway East
Binghamton, NY 13902
United States

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