Thursday, 17 February 2022

Framing a Protest: Determinants and Effects of Visual Frames

Michelle Torres (Rice University)

The information that media provides to citizens fuels their attitudes and opinions towards social movements. Although scholars have extensively studied the ways in which media portrays protests, existing analyses have mostly focused on the verbal component of news and have overlooked a crucial element of the communication process: the visual material. Therefore, in this talk, I focus on visual frames of protests. First, I analyze the differences in the framing of the mood and environment that liberal and conservative outlets use when they talk about protests. Results show that in the pictures that media outlets publish about protests, conservative newspapers tend to show a higher proportion of nocturnal and dark elements than liberal outlets. Second, using two experiments, I study how the framing of the level of violence in a protest, using either verbal or visual material, affects attitudes towards the movement. The results show that violent depictions of protests negatively affect evaluations of and engagement with social movements, but especially when the protesters are the perpetrators. These results allow us to have a better understanding of the effects of visual framing on political attitudes and participation, and the variables associated with the generation of these visual frames.