BACKGROUND: Mass media content may play an important role in policy change. However, the empirical relationship between media advocacy efforts and tobacco control policy success has rarely been studied. We examined the extent to which newspaper content characteristics (volume, slant, frame, source, use of evidence, and degree of localization) that have been identified as important in past descriptive studies were associated with policy progression over a 2-year period in the context of point-of-sale (POS) tobacco control.
METHOD: We used regression analyses to test the relationships between newspaper content and policy progression from 2012 to 2014. The dependent variable was the level of implementation of state-level POS tobacco control policies at Time 2. Independent variables were newspaper article characteristics (volume, slant, frame, source, use of evidence, and degree of localization) and were collected via content analysis of the articles. State-level policy environment contextual variables were examined as confounders.
RESULTS: Positive, significant bivariate relationships exist between characteristics of news content (e.g., high overall volume, public health source present, local quote and local angle present, and pro-tobacco control slant present) and Time 2 POS score. However, in a multivariate model controlling for other factors, significant relationships did not hold.
DISCUSSION: Newspaper coverage can be a marker of POS policy progression. Whether media can influence policy implementation remains an important question. Future work should continue to tease out and confirm the unique characteristics of media content that are most associated with subsequent policy progression, in order to inform media advocacy efforts.