Introduction: Framing is an important aspect of the policy process that helps the public and decision makers sort through and resolve highly charged claims about an issue. Through slight changes in the presentation of issues, a framing effect may alter public support. The way a proposed sugary drink tax is discussed in public discourse and by the media significantly influences policy acceptance. Given the public health significance of obesity and diabetes in West Virginia (WV) the study of media frames employed to represent a sugary drink tax policy is useful.
Methods: Using quantitative content analysis, this study assessed news articles—published over 7 years by news outlets in WV—to determine the frames that were employed.
Results: Pro-tax arguments appeared more often in these articles. In both pro- and anti-tax arguments, a personal behavior or economic frame appeared more frequently. The more common anti-tax arguments focused on the tax being regressive and not changing personal behavior. The pro-tax arguments focused more often on increases in state revenues and people selecting healthier beverages.
Implications: Given the significance of obesity and diabetes in WV, the study of media frames that represent the sugary drink tax should provide valuable guidance to inform strategies that utilize public discourse and media coverage to influence policy acceptance. However, since WV has not been able to get approval for its sugary drink tax, it may be beneficial to examine other elements of agenda setting including issue generation tactics, mobilizing structures, and political opportunities.
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Andress L, Urhie O, Compton C. West Virginia’s sugary drink tax: examining print media frames in local news sources. J Appalach Health 2019;1(2):19-30. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0102.03
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