Disposition theory and protest: the influence of media frames and individual disposition on audience response to protest
This study examined the influence of news frames and individual disposition on audience response to protest. Specifically, the study sought to determine whether the social group depicted as the main actor in news coverage of protest would influence audience reactions to and support for organized protest. Informed by disposition theory and tested using an experimental design, the study found that certain audience characteristics can significantly predict attitudes toward protest based on the types of media content to which audiences are exposed, although the influence audience disposition toward the main actors within media frames of protest – the primary focus of this study – was less clear. Three characteristics consistently predicted participants’ emotional and cognitive reactions to the stories about healthcare protest: their pre-existing attitudes toward the subject of the protest (affordable healthcare); their general political ideologies, and their pre-existing dispositions toward protesters in general. The results underscore the importance of an audience member’s existing attitudes and dispositions in the interpretation of news content about protests.