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Article contents

Framing and political decision making: an overview.

  • Zoe Oxley Zoe Oxley Union College
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.1250
  • Published online: 29 May 2020

Political communicators have long used framing as a tactic to try to influence the opinions and political decisions of others. Frames capture an essence of a political issue or controversy, typically the essence that best furthers a communicator’s political goals. Framing has also received much attention by scholars; indeed, the framing literature is vast. In the domain of political decision making, one useful distinction is between two types of frames: emphasis frames and equivalence frames. Emphasis frames present an issue by highlighting certain relevant features of the issue while ignoring others. Equivalence frames present an issue or choice in different yet logically equivalent ways. Characterizing the issue of social welfare as a drain on the government budget versus a helping hand for poor people is emphasis framing. Describing the labor force as 95% employed versus 5% unemployed is equivalency framing. These frames differ not only by their content but also by the effects on opinions and judgements that result from frame exposure as well as the psychological processes that account for the effects. For neither emphasis nor equivalence frames, however, are framing effects inevitable. Features of the environment, such as the presence of competing frames, or individual characteristics, such as political predispositions, condition whether exposure to a specific frame will influence the decisions and opinions of the public.

  • competitive framing
  • emphasis frame
  • equivalence frame
  • framing effects
  • partisanship
  • political communication
  • public opinion
  • political decision making


During the weeks leading up to the June 2016 Brexit referendum, the British public was faced with a barrage of messages regarding whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. Arguments for maintaining EU membership centered on the risks of leaving: risks to the national economy, personal finances, safety and security, health-care, and individual rights (Clarke, Goodwin, & Whiteley, 2017 ). This point of view was encapsulated in campaign brochure tag lines such as “Leaving Europe would be a leap in the dark. Don’t risk it.” and “Your Future at Risk: Vote Remain on June 23rd” (Britain Stronger in Europe, 2016 ). In contrast, leaving the European Union was presented to citizens as an opportunity for the United Kingdom to regain sovereignty and to “take back control” over national borders, immigration and trade policies, lawmaking, and domestic spending (Vote Leave, 2016 ).

Later that same year, across the Atlantic Ocean, voters in Maine considered whether to change the state’s balloting procedures to ranked choice voting. In contrast to the fairly ubiquitous plurality voting system used throughout the United States, under ranked choice voting voters rank candidates in order of personal preference. If one candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, that candidate wins election to the contested office. Otherwise, instant runoff procedures kick in until a candidate reaches the majority threshold. During the referendum campaign in Maine, advocates of ranked choice voting crafted a public campaign around the democratic principles of majority rule and true expression of voter preferences. The new electoral system would, they argued, “give Maine voters more choice and more voice” over the selection of political leaders (Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, 2016 ). Opponents countered that ranked choice voting would be both unnecessarily complex and cognitively taxing for voters as well as challenging for vote counters. “In a state where half the communities hand-count ballots,” wrote the Editorial Board of the Bangor Daily News in October 2016 , “we fear voting and vote counting will become confusing, less transparent and burdensome, further eroding voter turnout and faith in our election systems and government.”

When faced with political decisions regarding Britain’s future membership in the European Union and switching electoral systems, citizens of, respectively, the United Kingdom and Maine opted for change. By narrow and identical 52% to 48% results, voters decided that Britain should leave the European Union and that Maine should adopt ranked choice voting. Certainly many factors influenced individual voters’ decisions, yet political communication during the referenda campaigns likely reflected as well as shaped voters’ conceptions of the choice facing them. By presenting the options as between a risky future and a moment to reclaim national sovereignty in Britain or as between enhancing democratic choice and injecting confusion into the electoral process in Maine, advocates distilled the many components of these issues to the presentation that they hoped would convince voters to select the advocates’ preferred outcome. Put another way, advocates framed the choice for voters. This article presents an overview of framing and political decision making, beginning by differentiating between emphasis frames and equivalence frames. This differentiation is carried through subsequent sections, on the topics of framing effects, moderators of such effects, and differences between framing and other types of political communication, most notably priming. The goal of the article is to highlight broad topics regarding framing; in contrast, other articles in this volume address specific framing topics in depth. Material that is covered thoroughly elsewhere is noted as such and thus receives only brief mention in this article. In contrast, topics that receive minimal attention in these other framing articles are more fully developed.

Emphasis Versus Equivalence Frames

Framing has attracted the attention of scholars from many disciplines, including psychology, political science, sociology, economics, and communications. Perhaps because of its multidisciplinary roots, framing research has been characterized as a “fractured paradigm” (Entman, 1993 , p. 51) or as a field “as disjointed as ever” (Liu & Scheufele, 2016 , p. 2). Finding one common definition for frame across the disciplines has proved elusive (see, for instance, Cacciatore, Scheufele, & Iyengar, 2016 ), yet distinguishing between two types of frames—emphasis and equivalence frames—provides a degree of coherence to the framing literature (Cacciatore, Scheufele, & Iyengar, 2016 ; Druckman, 2001a ; Liu & Scheufele, 2016 ). 1

An emphasis frame presents an issue or political choice by emphasizing certain relevant features and ignoring others. 2 This type of frame “suggests what [a] controversy is about, the essence of the issue . . . [and] generally implies a policy direction or implicit answer to what should be done about the issue” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1987 , p. 143). Put another way, emphasis frames “provide meaning to an issue and suggest how to understand and think about it” (Slothuus, 2008 , p. 3). Emphasis frames abound in political communication, such as the referenda campaign examples that opened this article. Other examples include framing a Ku Klux Klan rally as an exercise of free speech versus a potential disruption to public order (Nelson, Clawson, & Oxley, 1997 ), gay rights measures as promoting equality versus upending traditional morality (Brewer, 2008 ), or the international war on terror as necessary for maintaining security in the United States versus costing too many resources (Boydstun & Glazier, 2013 ).

On the other hand, equivalence frames characterize an issue or decision choice via different yet logically equivalent presentations. The classic equivalency framing example, which originated in the work of Kahneman and Tversky ( 1979 , 1984 ), focuses on the issue of a disease outbreak. Proposals that aim to combat the disease can be framed in terms of how many lives would be saved versus how many people will die. The equivalency emerges because the expected outcome of these proposals are identical in terms of how many people are likely to survive the disease outbreak (i.e., out of 600 people, one frame states that 200 people will live, the other that 400 will die). Equivalency framing can also be present in descriptions of national or local conditions, such as characterizing a labor market as having a 5% unemployment rate versus a 95% employment rate or stating that 40% of a community’s residents have been vaccinated or, alternatively, that 60% have not been vaccinated (Druckman, 2004 ; Koch & Peter, 2017 ; Quattrone & Tversky, 1988 ).

Frames, of both types, attempt to provide some coherence to matters that are often very complex. Yet, as demonstrated by the definitions and few examples presented in the two preceding paragraphs, emphasis frames and equivalence frames are rather different in form. A comparison of the article-length treatments of emphasis framing (by Thomas Nelson) and equivalence framing (by Asmus Olsen) that appear elsewhere in this volume brings to light the different research trajectories of each. Only a handful of studies, for example, are cited by both Nelson and Olsen. This should not be surprising, given that these framing approaches have distinct disciplinary roots: sociology in the case of emphasis frames and psychology and behavioral economics for equivalence frames (Gamson, 1992 ; Goffman, 1974 ; Kahneman & Tversky, 1979 ). Furthermore, effects of frames on political decisions as well as the psychological models producing and moderators of such effects often differ between emphasis and equivalence frames.

Framing Effects

Frames are ever-present in political communication, employed by many political actors to capture their preferred understanding of or to make sense of an issue, controversy, or event. Framing scholars have identified and analyzed many specific frames in political discourse, generally for a particular issue (e.g., Boydstun & Glazier, 2013 ; Gamson & Modigliani, 1987 ; Kellstedt, 2000 ; Rose & Baumgartner, 2013 ). Studying frame content and production has been especially common for emphasis frames, a topic that receives much more attention in Thomas Nelson’s article in this volume. In addition to these frames in communication, frames are also present at another level, within the minds of individuals. A frame in thought “describes an individual’s perception of a situation; the frame reveals what an individual sees as relevant to understanding a situation” (Druckman, 2001a , p. 228; see also Brewer, 2003 ; Chong & Druckman, 2007a ; Entman, 1993 ; Ferree, Gamson, Gerhards, & Ruchts, 2002 ). For some people, one set of considerations might dominate their thinking, whereas others might consider multiple distinct considerations to be relevant and thus not have a dominant frame in thought regarding an issue. A framing effect occurs when a frame in communication influences a person’s political opinion or political judgment, often by altering their dominant frame in thought for the matter at hand. Typically, however, scholars do not directly measure whether a frame in thought has been influenced, but instead assess relevant opinions after frame exposure.

Effects of Frames on Political Opinions

The primary effect of emphasis frames on political opinions is influencing views toward specific policy issues. Such effects have been documented across a wide variety of issues. In the realm of civil liberties, public tolerance for the Ku Klux Klan is higher after exposure to an emphasis frame that describes a KKK rally as promoting free speech rather than a frame discussing the rally’s potential disruptions to public order (Druckman, 2001b ; Nelson, Clawson, & Oxley, 1997 ). The individual rights versus safety distinction is also consequential for gun policy opinions, with support for concealed handgun legislation higher when the law is framed as a matter of rights (Haider-Markel & Joslyn, 2001 ). Public preferences regarding social welfare spending are more generous when the issue is framed in humanitarian or compassionate ways and less generous in the face of alternative framings, such as the need for higher standards of personal responsibility or the influence of welfare spending on taxes or the budget deficit (Druckman, 2001b ; Nelson & Oxley, 1999 ; Slothuus, 2008 ; Sniderman & Theriault, 2004 ). When it comes to environmental policy opinions, being confronted with examples of local (versus global) effects or perceived negative consequences (versus benefits) of climate change can increase both the perception that climate change is a serious problem and support for policy action to address the issue (Spence & Pidgeon, 2010 ; Wiest, Raymond, & Clawson, 2015 ). On the foreign policy front, the American public is more supportive of U.S. engagement abroad, including military involvement, when a news story discusses intervention as addressing a humanitarian crisis rather than as a risk to military personnel (Berinsky & Kinder, 2006 ).

These emphasis framing effects were all demonstrated in experimental studies. Other framing scholars have combined media content analysis with survey data to draw connections between aggregate framing trends in political communication and aggregate shifts in public opinion. Findings from these studies include that support for the death penalty has declined somewhat over the past decades, as the innocence frame has been more prominent in press coverage of capital punishment (Baumgartner, De Boef, & Boydstun, 2008 ). Between 1950 and the early 1990s, Americans’ racial policy opinions trended in a more liberal direction when media framing of this policy emphasized egalitarian values compared to when matters of individual responsibility and deservedness were more salient (Kellstedt, 2000 ). Public support for gay rights policies, specifically homosexuals serving in the U.S. military and antidiscrimination employment policies, increased between 1992 and 2004 in part because framing these issues in terms of traditional morality became less common (Brewer, 2008 ).

Another effect of emphasis framing is the altering of issue opinion ingredients. In other words, regardless of whether people’s opinions toward an issue vary after frame exposure, the relationship between that opinion and specific relevant factors can be influenced by a frame in communication. Of course, changing which considerations are most strongly related to an issue opinion can be a reason why the overall opinion is affected. White public support for a Supreme Court anti–affirmative action decision ( Adarand v. Pena [1995]) was driven more strongly by views regarding individualism when the decision was framed as protecting the principle that racial and ethnic classifications should not enter into government decision making versus a setback for attempts to redress racial discrimination. In contrast, whites’ levels of racial resentment were stronger predictors among those who were exposed to the setback frame (Clawson & Waltenburg, 2009 ). Other scholars have also demonstrated that group-linked considerations are more influential drivers of issue opinions after exposure to certain types of issue frames (Brewer, 2008 ; Kinder & Sanders, 1996 ; Nelson & Kinder, 1996 ). On the other hand, framing social welfare as either an undeserved giveaway to the poor or a drain on the national economy did not produce different levels of policy opposition among the public but did influence whether attributions for poverty were related to such opposition (Nelson, Oxley, & Clawson, 1997 ).

Emphasis framing has been more common in studies of political communication and political decision making, in part because of the assumption that these frames are more common in actual political discourse than are equivalence frames (Druckman, 2001a ; Liu & Scheufele, 2016 ; Slothuus, 2008 ; Sniderman & Theriault, 2004 ). Yet, as Asmus Olsen’s article in this volume illustrates, equivalence frames can produce politically relevant effects when they are encountered by individuals. The framing paradigm pioneered by Kahneman and Tversky ( 1979 , 1984 ), for example, demonstrates that loss versus gain framing influences people’s tolerance for risk. Opinions toward policy proposals can also be influenced by equivalence frames. Preferences for crime prevention programs, for instance, can shift depending on whether the program describes the crime rate or the (numerically equivalent) law-obedience rate of a population, just as support for a jobs program varies by whether a community’s employment rate or (equivalent) unemployment rate is contained in the program details (Druckman, 2004 ; Quattrone & Tversky, 1988 ). Attitudes regarding political communicators, such as candidates or politicians, are also susceptible to equivalence frames. Thomas Koch and Christina Peter ( 2017 ) focus specifically on perceptions of truth and trustworthiness toward government ministers, finding that both are more favorable when a minister presents statistics framed around negative versus positive outcomes (e.g., percentage of people with or without chronic illnesses).

Psychological Models of Framing Effects

Various psychological processes have been posited to account for emphasis framing effects. The three primary models are briefly described here; for additional conceptual discussion, refer to articles by Thomas Nelson (“Emphasis Framing and Political Decision Making”) and Dennis Chong (“Competitive Framing in Political Decision Making”) elsewhere in this volume. Issues related to the complex and often thorny methodological issues inherent in empirically researching framing are discussed in “Framing Methodology: A Critical Review” by Dustin Carnahan, Qi Hao, and Xiaodi Yan.

The main mechanism initially thought to produce emphasis framing effects is cognitive accessibility. This explanation suggests that by highlighting only certain features of an issue, a frame in communication makes these features more accessible than other (unframed) ones in a person’s mind. And it is these accessible considerations that shape a person’s issue opinion (Entman, 1993 ; Iyengar, 1991 ; Kinder & Sanders, 1996 ; Zaller, 1992 ). An alternative model—belief importance—conceives of frames impacting issue opinions “by stressing specific values, facts, or other considerations, endowing them with greater apparent relevance to the issue than they might appear to have under an alternative frame . . . these considerations, in turn, carry greater weight for the final attitude” (Nelson, Clawson, & Oxley, 1997 , p. 569; see also Chong, 1996 ; Price & Tewksbury, 1997 ). A number of studies provide empirical support for the belief importance model of emphasis framing effects (Druckman, 2001b ; Nelson & Oxley, 1999 ; Slothuus, 2008 ). Notably, Thomas Nelson, Rosalee Clawson, and Zoe Oxley ( 1997 ) directly tested both the accessibility and belief importance models, concluding that framing effects were driven by the frames altering belief importance but not the accessibility of considerations. Specifically, after exposure to a public order framing of a KKK rally, people were more likely to rate public order–related considerations as important, whereas the considerations were no more cognitively accessible to them compared to individuals who had viewed a free speech–framed news story of the same rally.

The third approach emphasizes that issue frames can alter the content of opinion-relevant beliefs. According to this belief change model, “an issue frame might be able to put forward some new arguments or information that the citizen had not previously thought about and, thereby, deliver a new consideration—a reason to favor or oppose the issue” (Slothuus, 2008 , p. 5). For the aforementioned KKK rally example, a public order frame might alert a message recipient, for the first time, that fighting and violence could occur at a rally. In a direct empirical comparison of the belief change and belief importance models, Nelson and Oxley ( 1999 ) demonstrate that both can mediate framing effects, but that the role of the latter was more consequential in accounting for the effect of frames on issue opinions. Slothuus ( 2008 ) also finds a role for both belief change and belief importance, although the mechanisms’ applicability varied across individuals. For people with high levels of political awareness, framing effects occurred via belief importance only, whereas the effect of frames on issue opinions was carried via changes in both belief importance and belief change for those with moderate levels of awareness.

In contrast, neither belief importance nor belief change has been posited to account for the effects of equivalence frames. Models of equivalency framing effects typically begin with accessibility, suggesting that opposing frames make different factors accessible to a person. Importantly, in the realm of equivalence frames, the factors generally carry a positive or negative valence (e.g., Kahneman and Tversky’s gain versus loss framing). After encountering a framed issue, the attributes of the issue are valence-encoded in a receiver’s memory alongside other similarly valenced items. “Negative frames temporarily activate knowledge of negativity and associated constructs . . ., while positive frames increase the activation of positivity and associated constructs,” which are then applied to later decisions (Koch & Peter, 2017 , p. 851; see also Olsen, this volume, and Druckman, 2004 ; Levin, Schneider, & Gaeth, 1998 ; Quattrone & Tversky, 1988 ). Furthermore, memory associations are developed via learning processes. Through exposure to persuasive communication, for instance, people learn to distrust the communicators of positive messages more so than messengers delivering negative information. When then confronted with a politician framing information in a positive manner, trust in that politician is less than if the information’s negative equivalent had been presented (Koch & Peter, 2017 ).

Moderators: When Are Framing Effects Likely?

If factors other than mere accessibility lie at the heart of emphasis and equivalency framing effects, as much evidence suggests, these effects result from mindful information processing. In other words, framing effects are not automatic. Neither are they inevitable. The likelihood that a specific frame will influence a person’s opinion toward a framed issue or related political decision depends, in part, on features of the communication environment and on personal characteristics. In the domain of political decision making, our understanding of which specific factors moderate framing effects is better understood for emphasis than equivalency framing effects. 3 Thus, much of the discussion in this section focuses only on emphasis framing. Results drawn from the equivalency framing literature are explicitly noted.

The most significant contextual factor that moderates the effect of an individual frame is whether one encounters only one or multiple frames regarding the same issue. In competitive framing environments, framing effects can be complex, as Dennis Chong describes in his article in this volume. Drawing primarily from the pioneering research he conducted with James Druckman, Chong highlights the features of frames in communication that are most influential in competitive framing contexts. These include whether a person is exposed equally to opposite frames or more to frames on one side of an issue than on the other side and also whether the frames’ arguments are perceived to be persuasive or not (i.e., strong or weak frames). Equal exposure to opposing frames typically produces no framing effect on opinion because the effects of the frames cancel each other out. Yet, when frame strength varies, issue opinions will move in the direction of strong frames, even if a weak frame is encountered more. These results hold for frame exposure at a single point in time, for both emphasis frames (Chong & Druckman, 2007b ; Druckman, Peterson, & Slothuus, 2013 ; Jerit, 2009 ; Sniderman & Theriault, 2004 ) and equivalence frames (Druckman, 2004 ). When emphasis frames are encountered over a period of time, additional factors need to be considered to assess whether a framing effect occurs, such as the order and timing of exposure to opposing frames. For example, opposing frames of equal strength will not always cancel each other if they are received at different times rather than simultaneously (Chong & Druckman, 2010 ; Druckman, Fein, & Leeper, 2012 ; Lecheler & de Vreese, 2013 ).

Another aspect of a communication frame that moderates emphasis framing effects is the frame’s source. In particular, individuals attend to the credibility and partisanship of a frame’s communicator. As demonstrated by James Druckman ( 2001b ), issue opinions are more likely to be shaped by frames when the source is generally perceived to be credible, whether that source is a person (e.g., Colin Powell vs. Jerry Springer) or a media outlet ( New York Times vs. National Enquirer ). In the early 2000s, Druckman ( 2001a ) also explored the relevance of source cues for equivalence frames, in this case partisan cues. He found that equivalency framing effects largely disappear when frames include a partisan source. Instead of relying on the frame’s substantive content as they make their decisions, people prefer the option put forth by their political party. Later, during the 2010s, significant advancements were made in our understanding of partisanship and emphasis framing. In a situation when people are exposed to a single issue frame and a party cue is present, the effect of the frame on issue opinions is greater among party supporters than nonsupporters. For instance, in the arena of social welfare policy, Danish adults’ issue opinions differed by frame exposure only if the frames were sponsored by their political party. When a different party endorsed the social welfare frames, issue opinions did not differ by frame (Slothuus & de Vreese, 2010 ; see also Slothuus, 2010 ).

Whereas such single frame examples are useful to begin understanding party endorsements’ moderating influence on framing effects, real-time political communication is usually much more complex. Fortunately, key elements of this complexity have been incorporated into emphasis framing research designs. The effects of party-sponsored frames described in the prior paragraph, for example, exist for issues that are at the core of party divisions but not for issues where party consensus exists (Slothuus & de Vreese, 2010 ). For consensus issues, people’s opinions can be shaped by the content of issue frames, whether those frames are endorsed by their party or a different party. Under conditions of frame competition, party cues moderate framing effects, although individual reliance on party endorsements differs for polarized versus nonpolarized environments. James Druckman, Erik Peterson, and Rune Slothuus ( 2013 ) demonstrate that when individuals are exposed to competing frames of unequal strength and polarization is low, issue opinions move in the direction of the stronger frame, even when party cues are present. If the competing frames are of the same strength, however, people’s opinions are more likely to coincide with the frames supported by their party. Put another way, when the available substantive details regarding an issue do not provide opinion guidance, party sponsorship does. What happens when elite partisan polarization is high? Individuals’ opinions coincide with their political party’s issue position, regardless of the strength of the issue frames encountered. More specifically, when respondents were told that there was a stark divide between the parties regarding the DREAM Act, with congressional Republicans opposing and congressional Democrats supporting this legislation, Republican respondents opposed the DREAM Act no matter whether they were exposed to a strong-pro frame and a weak-con frame, a weak-pro frame and a strong-con frame, two strong frames, or two weak frames. Democratic respondents supported the DREAM Act, regardless of the content of frames they received.

To account for these various findings regarding party cues and emphasis framing, scholars have turned to the theory of motivated reasoning. A key tenet of this theory is that when forming political opinions, people can be motivated by a desire to uphold their existing preferences or support their existing identities, as opposed to being motivated to form accurate opinions. Partisan attachments can be a particularly important guide for individuals who are motivated by opinion direction goals (Leeper & Slothuus, 2014 ; Taber & Lodge, 2006 ; Redlawsk, 2002 ). Motivated reasoning processes kick in when a partisan source is present in political communication, such as the following describes: “if a frame is sponsored by a party people feel attached to, motivated reasoning should lead them to pay closer attention to frame content and assess it more favorably. In contrast, if people have negative feelings toward the party sponsor, they would discount, simply ignore, or even engage in counterarguing the interpretations in the frame” (Slothuus & de Vreese, 2010 , p. 632).

Alongside characteristics of a frame in communication, political predispositions of the receiver also moderate framing effects. One relevant predisposition is values. A frame that resonates with an individual’s preexisting values, such as egalitarianism or individualism, will be more likely to influence opinion than will nonresonating frames (Andrews, Clawson, Gramig, & Raymond, 2017 ; Seo & Nelson, 2011 ). On the other hand, framing effects on issue opinions are unlikely among individuals who already possess strong values relevant to the issue compared to people with weakly held values (Brewer, 2003 ; Slothuus, 2008 ). Framing effects are also conditioned by individual partisanship. As demonstrated, in certain situations partisans are more likely to be influenced by frames that are communicated by elites in their party. In addition, even if frames do not have party cues attached, the effect of a frame can differ by individual partisanship. When gun control is framed around individual rights versus safety, for example, issue opinions regarding gun control are altered by frame exposure among Republicans but not Democrats, a result attributed to the fact that considerations highlighted in both frames resonate with Republicans, whereas the individual rights framing does not coincide with Democrats’ existing predispositions (Haider-Markel & Joslyn, 2001 ). Framing climate change as providing benefits versus losses can influence relevant policy support among Democrats but not Republicans, most likely because Democrats typically do not consider climate change to have positive impacts (Wiest, Raymond, & Clawson, 2015 ). Partisanship does not always dominate over other individual characteristics, however. When framing the goal of the 2008 economic stimulus package as either boosting, stabilizing, or preventing the collapse of the national economy, framing effects on opinion differed by income levels but not party identification (Malhotra & Margalit, 2010 ).

Another individual characteristic that seems to enhance framing effects is political knowledge. The considerations highlighted in frames are more likely to be familiar to those with higher levels of knowledge, who are thus better able to connect this information with their overall opinion on the framed issue. In the 1990s, for instance, gay rights opinions of politically knowledgeable adults were more sensitive to media framing of this issue than were those with lower levels of knowledge (Brewer, 2003 ). Opinions toward social welfare policies are more likely to be shaped by issue frames as levels of knowledge increase, whether that is general political knowledge (Slothuus, 2008 ) or specific knowledge regarding welfare policy (Nelson, Oxley, & Clawson, 1997 ). Issue frames are even effective for domain experts, such as professional farmers in the case of agriculture policy (Andrews et al., 2017 ). To be sure, not all research points to this conclusion, with some studies finding that framing effects are greater among the less knowledgeable (e.g., Haider-Markel & Joslyn, 2001 ). To reconcile such disparate findings, James Druckman and Kjersten Nelson ( 2003 ) argue that those with higher levels of knowledge might also possess preexisting opinions that are unlikely to be altered by frame exposure. When controlling for relevant factors, they find that more knowledgeable individuals are indeed more likely be affected by frames. Levels of knowledge also influence the processing of frames when party sponsors are identified. The effect of these party frames on opinions is greater among more politically knowledgeable individuals, especially for party conflict (versus consensus) issues (Slothuus & de Vreese, 2010 ). In the case of party-sponsored frames, more politically knowledgeable people are not only more likely to engage in deeper processing of frames but also more able to argue against frame content that is endorsed by a party other than the one they support.

Framing Versus Priming

Framing is one of many types of political communication, all of which potentially have implications for political decision making. A perennial question among framing scholars has been whether framing effects are distinct from other political communication effects. This topic has been raised in the context of emphasis framing but is largely absent from the equivalency framing literature. Indeed, comparisons between the belief importance and belief change models of emphasis framing effects are often discussed in terms of distinguishing framing effects from persuasion (Nelson & Oxley, 1999 ; Slothuus, 2008 ). Among the political communication effects that framing has been compared to, however, by far the most common is priming. The emphasis framing article by Thomas Nelson in this volume, for instance, raises the matter of conceptual differences between framing and priming. A methodology-focused article by Bryan Gervais (on media effects experiments), also in this volume, devotes some space to discussing differences between priming and framing as well. As these articles attest, the matter goes beyond simply comparing framing and priming to critiquing whether framing and priming are actually distinct phenomena.

Drawing on political communication effects research, a rather clear distinction between priming and framing can be made. As first delineated by Shanto Iyengar and Donald Kinder ( 1987 ), a news media priming effect occurs when media attention to an issue makes that issue a more dominant factor in people’s judgements of political leaders. 4 Assessments of presidential performance overall, for instance, are more closely linked to assessments of the president’s handling of defense policy when defense issues are more (versus less) prominent in the news. Note that Iyengar and Kinder find that while attention to an issue is necessary to produce a priming effect, the way an issue is presented does not necessarily matter, although the priming effect is enhanced when news media coverage of an issue suggests that the president is responsible for that issue. Priming has also been examined in the context of campaign strategy, where the focus is on how much candidates emphasize certain issues or personal characteristics on the assumption that voters will place more attention on salient issues or characteristics when making voting decisions (Druckman, Jacobs, & Ostermeier, 2004 ; Jacobs & Shapiro, 1994 ). Contrast these priming effects with framing effects, in which issue opinions are influenced because of the way that an issue is presented rather than the amount of attention that the issue receives. To the degree that variation in the emphasis of issue-relevant considerations (versus other considerations) alters opinions, framing effects have occurred. When variation in the salience of an issue (versus other issues) affects judgements, priming effects have occurred.

Those who argue that framing is not distinct from priming tend, however, to focus on the psychological mechanism that produces framing effects rather than features of the communication stimuli. For Jiawei Liu and Dietram Scheufele ( 2016 ), that mechanism is accessibility. They conclude that emphasis framing is therefore difficult to differentiate from other accessibility-based effects (such as agenda-setting and priming) and that research on emphasis framing effects should be abandoned in favor of equivalency framing effects. In contrast, Dennis Chong and James Druckman ( 2007a , p. 115) argue that the psychological processes of accessibility and applicability produce both framing and priming effects and therefore “the two terms can be used interchangeably.” Alternatively to both of these solutions, scholars could design rigorous empirical tests of the underlying psychological mechanisms for framing and priming effects. Others have made a similar plea, but appear skeptical that the mechanisms for these effects can be disentangled given that both effects appear rooted in accessibility (Cacciatore, Scheufele, & Iyengar, 2016 ). Yet, while direct examinations of the accessibility model of framing effects have been rare, they have not provided support for this mechanism (e.g., Nelson, Clawson, & Oxley, 1997 ), suggesting attempts to further differentiate framing from priming effects might indeed be productive.

Writing in 2001 , James Druckman concludes that “it is analytically useful to distinguish between two types of framing effects (equivalency framing effects and emphasis framing effects), as these two effects have different implications and may work differently” ( 2001a , p. 245). Nearly 20 years later, a similar conclusion can be drawn from the framing research. Research conducted over that time period continues to demonstrate that the nature of and the psychological processes underlying these effects differ for emphasis versus equivalence frames. The key areas of progress as well as main areas in need of more research attention also generally differ by frame type. In these two decades, for instance, great advancements have been made in testing for emphasis framing effects in more realistic communication environments, such as when partisan sources are attached to frames or under conditions of competitive framing. However, questions regarding whether emphasis framing clearly differs from other political communication effects, especially priming, persist and thus merit more thorough scholarly attention. A return to exploring the psychological models of belief importance and belief change for emphasis framing effects would be useful, especially in light of new work on framing and partisanship that draws upon the theory of motivated reasoning. In contrast, equivalency framing scholars have delineated the processes that produce effects for these frames in the political domain, but research regarding the moderators, both contextual and individual, of the effects is underdeveloped. While each body of literature could provide conceptual and methodological inspiration for the other, given the inherent differences between emphasis and equivalence frames, research that continues along parallel tracks would seem to be more fruitful than attempting to create one overarching definition of framing effects or one theory to account for all framing effects.

Further Reading

  • Chong, D. , & Druckman, J. N. (2007). Framing theory. Annual Review of Political Science , 10 (1), 103–126.
  • Chong, D. , & Druckman, J. N. (2010). Dynamic public opinion: Communication effects over time. American Political Science Review , 104 (4), 663–680.
  • Druckman J. N. , Peterson, E. , & Slothuus, R. (2013). How elite partisan polarization affects public opinion formation. American Political Science Review , 107 (1), 57–79.
  • Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication , 43 , 51–58.
  • Kahneman, D. , & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica , 47 (2), 263–292.
  • Levin, I. P. , Schneider, S. L. , & Gaeth, G. J. (1998). All frames are not created equal: A typology and critical analysis of framing effects. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes , 76 (2), 149–188.
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1. A further distinction has been posed in the literature, that between frames that can apply to multiple issues and those that are issue-specific. Research in the former tradition includes the work of Iyengar ( 1991 ) on episodic versus thematic framing and others’ work on journalistic news frames such as those highlighting conflict, strategic maneuvering of politicians, or the electoral horse race (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997 ; Patterson, 1993 ; Price, Tewksbury, & Powers, 1997 ; Valentino, Beckmann, & Buhr, 2001 ). Because the bulk of work in the domain of framing and political decision making has explored issue-specific frames, this article will focus only on that research.

2. Note that earlier classification schemes tended to label these as issue frames (e.g., Druckman, 2004 ; Slothuus, 2008 ). Emphasis frame has become the more common term.

3. In contrast, considerable attention has been devoted to exploring the moderators of equivalency framing in psychology (Druckman, 2001a ).

4. For a similar but more psychologically based discussion of priming, see Chadly Stern’s “Priming in Political Judgment and Decision Making” article in this volume.

Related Articles

  • A Revisionist Perspective on Framing Effects
  • Emphasis Framing and Political Decision Making
  • Competitive Framing in Political Decision Making

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America Is Often a Nation Divided

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The Metaphor Project

What is American Political Framing?

American Political Framing or  ‘Speaking American’ is a specific Metaphor Project technique. It refers to framing liberal and progressive messages in a broadly accessible way at the values, ‘big idea’ level. It also means using familiar language found in everyday American political communication to evoke the best American values‚ the ones we ourselves share.

For example , if politicians refer to ‘playing by the rules’ or  ‘leveling the playing field,’ we all know they are talking about fairness. Fairness is a bedrock American value we all hold, even if the details of its expression or application vary. We can honestly use phrases like these to help open up political dialogue in our country. Even though some might counter that ‘life isn’t fair,’ fairness is still an important and widely shared American value. It may not convince the opposition, but it can rally our own supporters and appeal to the ‘persuadables’ among us.

A real world example of how this can work comes from a winning union political flier used in the ’05 California election. It specifically talked about ‘leveling the playing field’ in order to fight a proposition that would have seriously hampered union political activity, leaving corporate political activity unchecked. More recently, ‘play by the rules’ was an important sound bite in the 2010 fight over re-regulating the financial industry.

The most effective way to use these familiar but powerful phrases, images, and metaphors in our ‘infoglut’ world is  to make them part of a sound bite. Cognitive scientist George Lakoff’s famous right wing example, ‘tax relief,’ was built on a familiar advertising slogan, ‘Get pain relief fast.’ The slogan itself was based on American cultural expectations about fixing everything uncomfortable fast. We progressives and liberals need to learn to create our own ‘American truth bites,’ in order to open up more honest political dialogue here. If we’re telling the truth with our soundbites, we can do this with integrity. I call that ‘speaking American.’

Why ‘Speak American’ ?

The Metaphor Project believes it’s vital that we reach out to people beyond our own political circles today . Doing this successfully requires learning to ‘speak American.’ That means using the words, phrases, images, or metaphors that convey our own progressive values in a way more Americans can hear. This is exactly what Martin Luther King did when he capped his great speech on racial equality in 1963 with the phrase ‘I have a dream . . .’ He was referring to our shared American dream of a nation that fosters equality, opportunity, and justice. This is the ideal American vision expressed in the words of our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

It’s true that as a nation, we have not been able to fully realize our ideal national vision, and that we have often deeply violated it. Yet that positive vision has remained the source of social change activists’ cutting-edge work and success throughout our history. Our own goal of a new and better society itself grows directly out of this American vision.

Using the words, phrases, images or metaphors that convey the best American values is the most effective way to create real common ground . This is a vital step to take at the beginning of our messages, the ‘big idea’ part, before we start explaining the specifics of our policy proposals . A good example of this today is the way that gay rights have been reframed as civil rights and equality. This is exactly the kind of thing I mean by the phrase ‘speaking American.’

What The Ideal American Story Includes

The most important element of the ‘Ideal American Story’ is The American Dream . Although today that phrase is often narrowed to the limits of the consumer culture, there is a larger American dream that is still alive in our country — that is the dream of a fair, prosperous, and free people willing to try new ways to get things done. Parts of this dream form a section of the narrative I call The American Nation as well.

This dream includes the feeling that we are the ‘can do’ people, who can turn on a dime to do the impossible better than anyone else. As individuals, when the playing field is level, we have hope that we can better our situation in life by our own efforts because we believe in a piece of our story the MP has labelled Free to Succeed . (More detail on these story elements can be found in Some American Story Elements That Evoke Core Values and Some American Metaphor Categories ).

As a people, we hate failure.  We like to succeed, individually and as a nation. (A set of four other American story elements frequently used in politics can be found in the writings of Robert Reich: ‘mob at the gates, rot at the top, the triumphant individual, and the benevolent community.’ See the  American Studies  section of the  Selected Sources and Links  for bibliography.)

But we also depend on cooperative communities of honest and well-intentioned neighbors to help us reach our goals ( Small Town Security ). And there are several other important American narratives about shared social struggle in our common cultural heritage and actual history. These are the ‘Us vs Them’ face-off stories. Some are about owners vs workers or slaves, or about the rich vs the poor or immigrants. Others are about dominant whites vs people of color. These narratives also break the conventional American taboo against admitting that class or race matter in America. But they all include important aspects of the overall ideal identity American story: ‘can do,’ ‘the good community,’ fairness, equality and opportunity, among others.

Most of all, we are action types , on the move, in motion toward a better future ( We’re On A Journey ). Most of us still believe that the better future we seek will come to us by doing things in new ways, by means of science and technology ( Man to Superman ). But, optimistic as we are, we also are quick to condemn The American Nightmare –secrecy, deception, lies, secret deals, invasion of privacy and violation of other basic rights, ignoring or breaking the rule of law, going too far, breaking the budget, betraying the public trust, cheating the public, discrimination and unfair business practices.

In The People’s History of America , Howard Zinn tells the story that when enough of the oppressed act up enough, progress occurs. Bill Moyers has recounted the many ways progressive reform movements have worked in American history. Boston College sociologist Charles Derber’s book, Hidden Power, also provides valuable background and ‘how to’ suggestions for carrying this task forward. The goal of all of these teachers is to help us become more aware of our own enduring cultural DNA as progressives. They point to the guiding narratives that show us how to act on the best American vision now.

Of course, the overall ‘Ideal American Identity Story’ includes both conservative and progressive mini-stories, but there is more overlap between these two ideal narratives than we used to believe. (See  Blue, Red, and Purple  for more detail about how these story elements line up with each other. The work of Jonathan Haidt has been particularly useful in this regard.)

What’s At Stake

The idea that America has the potential to be a different and better place embodies a core truth. Today we have lost touch with what government was like in the world before the American Revolution. But when our forefathers, flawed as they and their work were, set out to create a country governed by the people and without a king, they were unique in the world and widely believed to be crazy and certain to fail.

Today, the American dream of democratic government by the people , of the people and for the people, of religious freedom, equality, opportunity, and prosperity for all is still a revolutionary force in the rest of the world. This is true despite the scale of our nation’s current betrayals. We cannot afford to just throw out the power of our potential. We must use it to lead our nation toward living by the best American values, not just talking about them or covering up lies with them.

However, one aspect of some Americans sense of ourselves does clash strongly with liberal and progressive ideas: ‘American Exceptionalism.’ That’s the belief that America is special, unique, perfect, and called to save (and rule) the world, even if it means using military force to do it. This idea has deep roots in American history. It has been used to justify or cover abuses at home and abroad since our beginnings. Activists are sometimes so angry about it that they try to avoid ‘speaking American’ entirely.

It is true that some aspects of America’s historical narrative are not, by any stretch, compatible with liberal or progressive values.  American   cultural ‘history’ is a very mixed bag. It combines pieces of the ideal American identity with bits of our experience as individuals, adding some conclusions drawn, rightly or wrongly from our history. American history shows we did not start out living our best values, and as a nation, we have fallen short again and again. It is also true that the language of our best values has frequently been used to cover up their betrayal.

But we must not throw out the baby (the ideal vision the words evoke) with the bath water (the way the words have been misused by some). We need to follow the example of all our activist forbears, who constantly called on the nation to reform by challenging us to live by our best values. Our times call out for activists to again play this essential role. We can stay true to our own values when we reclaim our shared political language. If we select or combine American story elements carefully , we can convey our messages honestly and effectively. (For some examples of how to do this, see the next section below.) Focusing on the positive possibilities for our common future is the most successful way to lead Americans toward better behavior.

Quick Guide to Answering Objections

The following steps can help you deal with resistance to ‘speaking American:’

l. If people say, ‘The American story is all bad, a lie, just the oppressors’ version, and speaking American’ is just using the oppressors’ language’:

Make clear that you are talking about an ideal American vision, how America should be, not actual or recent history, and that at this point in your organizing process you are aiming to reach the mainstream audience of American people and its elected representatives.

Remind your listeners that our ideal values come from our national contract documents, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Note that American social change activists of every kind have always worked to expand the actual expression of those values in American life. It’s our turn now.

Show that the   unappealing elements of American history and everyday culture can be corrected by bridging selected aspects to other story elements that do work for us. For example, we can use the individual hope part of the Horatio Alger story (or individual responsibility frame) and combine it with the ideas of fairness, and equality via the cooperative sports metaphor of ‘level the playing field.’  

2. If they say, ‘we need a new story,’ because the old story is bankrupt and a lie: 

Explain that when trying to persuade, studies show that the best results are obtained by presenting new ideas using value language familiar to mainstream audiences, and that well-known American words, phrases, images or metaphors will convey this best. For example, a Sierra Club activist in the very patriotic South recently gave a speech about how patriotic it was to preserve our natural areas.

3. If they say, ‘we need to be speaking for the planet or for the global audience, and not catering to American exceptionalism,–the idea that Americans are different from everybody else:’

Meet the concern expressed by some international activists about ‘speaking American’ instead of ‘speaking International,’ by quoting Martin Khor, Director of the Third World Network. He has said that the most important thing we as Americans can do is change American behavior.

Point out that the most effective way to do that is to appeal to Americans’ best ideas about themselves, as reflected in the finest core American values. These include freedom, equality, opportunity, setting a good example for the rest of the world, doing the new thing, and so on.

Explain that just exhorting our neighbors to give up their national identity as expressed in American exceptionalism won’t work today. Working to improve  the way the American identity operates in the world is the only effective route. As Warren Buffet once famously advised Bono in his effort to get more American aid for Africa, ‘Appeal to American greatness, not American conscience.’

Propaganda and Political Framing Essay

The video chosen for the overview in this paper is called “Euromaidan/Kijow 2014”, it was posted on YouTube by a user under the nickname MrMitos1 in the end of February this year, which was the time when the whole world was discussing the events of Ukrainian revolution and the mass protest in the center of Kyiv on the Independence Square or Maidan. The video presents a selection of photographs taken during the most heated moments of the protest.

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The photographs demonstrate various events and actions that took place on Maidan. The video is quite effective, as it employs powerful images and makes them produce the strongest effect on the audience. For the supporters of the protest this video would serve as a great motivation and a reminder of the “heroic” time and people. The video is accompanied by epic music designed to create a dramatic mood, evoke the viewer’s emotions and connect them to the images.

The events of revolution are shown in a one-sided manner. The protesters are portrayed as heroes, and the police and the government – as cruel tyrants. Images of priests participating in Maidan riots demonstrated that god is on the people’s side and images of police only show snipers, framing the police as coldblooded murderers. This propaganda is intended to make the viewers join the protest and rise against the “wrong” power.

The of the ideological similarities between a Palestinian Islamic organization called Hamas and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is that both of these movements were created with a purpose to liberate. Hamas intended to free Palestine from its occupation by Israel and ALF’s main function is to liberate animals exploited and used by humans for scientific experiments and other cruel activities (Coronado, 2004).

Each of the two organizations functions in more than one country. Finally, the most obvious similarity is that both Animal Liberation Front and Hamas employ violence to achieve their goals. While Hamas uses suicide bombers and rocket attacks, ALF sets facilities on fire and commits acts of vandalism and private property violations. The difference between the organizations is that Hamas is considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union and ALF is often compared to a terrorist organization but is not officially designated as one.

The term “framing” generally has been used to represent the human need for understanding for the events that happen around, framing works through various sets of beliefs and perceptions and can be based on different ideologies and points of view. Framing is a flexible phenomenon, it can be used to educate and inform the society about various events, their development, causes and possible outcomes, but at the same time it can be employed to shape the public opinion in a certain way and orientate the masses towards certain beliefs. In the world of nowadays framing is widely used by the mass media.

Political framing is employed by the politicians in their public addresses and speeches, in their comments on various events and actions. Such important and global issue as terrorism is also widely framed in various ways. Framing happens when the mass media describe certain acts without naming the “good” and “bad” sides directly, but making it very clear for the viewers who should be held responsible for the violence and damage. This is done in order to create a stronger influence on the masses and make them believe that the media did not put the thoughts in their heads; it makes people feel like they figured out the situations on their own. Framings makes the viewers confident about the ideas it carries, this is why it is so effective.

Spectacle is basically the mass media of the society and everything that comes from it. In the computerized, digitalized and virtualized world of nowadays no popular event or object can exist without a mass media campaign, which serves as an advertisement and promotion at the same time. Terrorism works through recruiting more and more people and constantly gaining new supporters and followers.

Terrorism is well known only because terrorist acts are so widely broadcasted through the media such as newspapers, radio, television and the internet. The influence of terrorism would be hundreds of times smaller if it was not so widely promoted by the mass media. Spectacle is the main tool of terrorism. Its activists are perfectly aware that without the publicity they are powerless. This is why when they want to create a demonstration, they film their actions and have them broadcast.

The events on 9/11 increased the public interest towards terrorism massively. Ever since that time the media never let go of it, and Bush’s famous expression “war on terrorism” combined with constant framing, propaganda and the products of Hollywood heightened the fear of foreign threat in the United States. Terrorism is in constant need of a spectacle and as long as it can get the attention of the masses, the global paranoia about the threat that is “always there” exists.

Reference List

Coronado, R. (2004). Editorial. Bite Back Magazine, 7 , 1.

MrMitos1. (2014). Euromaidan/Kijów 2014 . Web.

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Political Frame Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Politics , Workplace , Human Resource Management , Organization , Policy , Swamp , Staff , Growth

Published: 02/04/2020


Every organization requires a strong and active participation of its members of staff. This directs the articulation of organizational agenda and how it ultimately enhances performance and creativity, whilst retaining the scarce resources available in the organization (Paquette 4). As an alligator in an organizational swamp, I would be an alligator of the largest and rarest species. The organizational swamp denotes the need for each and every species in the swamp to survive, procreate and thrive. The need to develop survival mechanisms, apply them and ensure that survival is attained is crucial at each and every level in the swamp. My role will be to ensure that I draft policies, rules and regulations that ward off competitors and score maximum points for my team. The limited resources in the swamp will be sufficient as I would have mastered the art of using the limited resources to ensure maximized benefits. It is also clear that alligators do not have any known or measured lifespan, resulting in the lack of clarity in how many years they can survive. These years can be put to best use in the organization yielding maximum results. This metaphor adequately explains the existing situation that forms an organization’s political frame. This is because each organization is made up of varied political strengths, governed by varied ideologies aims and objectives (Althaus, Bridgman and Davis 10). The need to survive, thrive and formulate policies that best propel the organization to greater heights, despite the limited resources is essential to each and every organization. In conclusion, the stability and formulation of policies directly leads to the growth or demise of an organization. If the policies created are not carefully thought out, and the results not communicated effectively it is highly likely that the organization will not yield profits, there would be high staff turnover and organizational growth would be severely hampered.

Works Cited

Althaus, C., Bridgman, P., and Davis, G. The Australian Policy Handbook. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2007. Print. Paquette, L. Analyzing National and International Policy. New York: Rowman Littlefield, 2002. Print.


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Political Frame Paper - Essay Example

Political Frame Paper

  • Subject: Environmental Studies
  • Type: Essay
  • Level: College
  • Pages: 4 (1000 words)
  • Downloads: 4
  • Author: lrobel

Extract of sample "Political Frame Paper"

Rather than allowing the use of power to be destructive, the manager can learn to use power and politics as a skill to be developed within organizational arenas. The first assumption of the political frame perspective states that organizations are a compilation of competing interests and groups (coalitions) with conflict and tension inherent in conducting day-to-day business (Bolman & Deal, 2008). Because of limited resources it becomes necessary for the organizational members to vie for the rights to those resources.

There is no escaping the politics of the organization environment. For example, if a Danish center director and a regional marketing director are negotiating with a corporate client that needs French and English training within a month for four executives who are travelling internationally, but a competing center in Italy with the same regional marketing manager also has a need for the same resources for a different client, how would the company make the decision as to which client gets the resources first?

Who would take priority? If the regional director is Danish, would it be the Danish center director? From what can be found on the website, those decisions would follow the regional headquarters procedure, because the cultures found under that regional headquarters (in this case Denmark and Italy are both under Europe) are qualified to consider all interests equally (Berlitz, 2010) . Organizations form into coalitions that attempt to influence one another by pooling resources and power of the various members (Bolman & Deal, 2008; McShane & Von Glinow, 2005).

The Berlitz Worldwide Regional Directors can use a variety of influence methods to get what they want from one another. Influence tactics include: deferring to authority; assertiveness; information control; coalition formation; upward appeal; ingratiation and impression management; persuasion; and exchange (McShane & Von Glinow, 2005). There are factors to consider when utilizing an influence tactic such as upward, downward, or lateral influence, the influencer’s power base, and personal and cultural values.

These factors are the reasons why Berlitz is a particularly challenging organization to communicate within. There are a number of aspects to be considered that can be extremely diverse that can affect the power base, reactions, body language, response time, level of defensiveness to requests. Again, factoring all of these things takes time and in the fast-paced world we live in, the leader may not have the luxury of the time to work the issue as some might say and resort to “hard tactics” rather than “soft tactics” (p. 356). As a global organization each leader will have to consider the culture they are operating within and the culture of the coalition they are attempting to deal with or experience an exchange.

The second assumption within the political frame perspective is that the coalition members cannot ever shake their differences. No matter how much training, coaching, and peace keeping skills a leader/manager/diplomat may receive, that coalition member will continue to have persistent differences in attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, feelings, and activities (McShane & Von Gl

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political framing essay


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Political Frame Notes Bolman and Deal

Political Frame Notes Bolman and Deal

The political frame does not blame politics on such individual characteristics as selfishness, myopia, or incompetence. Instead, it asserts that interdependence, divergent interests, scarcity, and power relations inevitably spawn political activity.

Organizations are coalitions of diverse individuals and interest groups. There are enduring differences among coalition members in values, beliefs, information, interests, and perceptions of reality. Most important decisions involve allocating scarce resources—who gets what.  Goals and decisions emerge from bargaining, negotiation, and jockeying for position among competing stakeholders.

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A coalition forms because of interdependence among its members; they need one another, even though their interest may only partly overlap. The assumption of enduring difference implies that political activity is more visible and dominant under conditions of diversity than of homogeneity. Agreement and harmony are easier to achieve when everyone shares similar values, beliefs, and culture.

The concept of scarce resources suggests that politics will be more salient and intense in difficult times. Power in organizations is basically the capacity to get things done. Pfeffer (1992, p.30) defines power as the “potential ability to influence behavior, to change the course of events, to overcome resistance, and to get people to do things they would not otherwise do.” The final proposition of the political frame emphasizes that goals are set not by fiat at the top but through an ongoing process of negotiation and interaction among key players.

Cyert and March, 1963: “relational concepts”: implicit rules that firms use to make decisions more manageable:

  • Quasi-resolution of conflict: organizations break problems into pieces and farm pieces out to different units.
  • Uncertainty avoidance: able to act as if information is clearer than it is.
  • Problemistic search: organizations look for solutions in the neighborhood of the presenting problem and grab the first acceptable solution.
  • Organizational learning: organizations evolve by adapting goals and aspiration levels.

Authorities: roles entitle them to make decisions binding on the partisans. Partisans: want to exert bottom-up influence. Authorities are the recipients or targets of influence, and the agents or initiators of social control. Potential partisans have the opposite roles—as agents or initiators of influence, and targets or recipients of social control.

If partisans are to convince that the existing authorities are too evil or too incompetent to continue, they will run the risk of trying to wrest power away—unless they regard the authorities as too formidable. Conversely, if partisans trust authority, they will leave it alone and even support it in the event of an attack. (Gamson, 1968; Baldridge, 1971)

Poor conflict management leads to the kind of infighting and destructive power struggle….But well-handled conflict can stimulate the creativity and innovation that make an organization a livelier, more adaptive, and more effective place. (Kotter, 1985)

Conflict is particularly likely to occur at boundaries, or interfaces, between groups and units. Horizontal conflict occurs in interfaces between departments or divisions; vertical conflict occurs between levels.

The fist step in effective political leadership is setting an agenda. The effective leader creates an “agenda for change” with two major elements: a vision balancing the long-term interests of key parties and a strategy for achieving the vision, recognizing competing internal and external forces. (Kotter, 1988)

Mapping the political terrain

  • Determine channels of informal communication.
  • Identify principal agents of political influence.
  • Analyze possibilities for both internal and external mobilization.
  • Anticipate strategies that others are likely to employ.

A simple way to develop a political map for any situation is to create a two-dimensional diagram mapping players (who is in the game), power (how much clout each player is likely to exercise), and interests (what each player wants). Kotter suggests four basic steps for exercising political influence:

  • Identify relevant relationships (figure out who needs to be led).
  •  Assess who might resist, why, and how strongly (figure out where the leadership challenges will be). Continued on page 210
  • Develop, wherever possible, relationships with potential opponents to facilitate communication, education, or negotiation.
  • If step three fails, carefully select and implement either more subtle or more forceful methods.

Fisher and Ury

  • separate the people from the problem
  • focus on interests, not positions
  • invent options for mutual gain.
  •  insist on objective criteria
  • Bargaining is a mixed-motive game. Both parties want an agreement but have differing interests and preferences.
  • Bargaining is a process of interdependent decisions.
  • The more player A can control Player B’s level of uncertainty, the more powerful player A is.
  • Bargaining involves judicious use of threats rather than sanctions.
  • Making a threat credible is crucial.
  • Calculation of the appropriate level of threat is also critical.

Block’s four steps of “let go of them” strategy for dealing with adversaries:

  • tell them your vision
  • state your best understanding of their position
  • identify your contribution to the problem
  • tell them what you plan to do without making demands.

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political framing essay

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Political communicators are skilled at framing the debates over controversial issues through an emphasis on the policy goals that deserve the highest priority, according to themselves rather than the people they communicate with. Such rhetoric affects political attitudes by influencing the importance that individuals place on competing issues. Frames do not only affect opinions on the issues, but they also influence the judgments of the participants in the communication process with regards to the relative importance of competing values.Thus, political persuaders shape the public opinion through the framing of their policy goals and choices (Nelson 581). Politicians attempt to control public perception through the use of words.

Thus an encyclopedia has defined framing as “a process of selective control over the individual’s perception of media, public, or private communication, in particular the meanings attributed to words or phrases. Framing defines how an element of rhetoric is packaged so as to allow certain interpretations and rule out others”.Moreover, media frames may be created by the mass madia as well as specific political and social movements or organizations (“Framing: Communication Theory”). Very often we find that the media works alongside political and social movements to control the perceptions of the public at large through the communication theory of framing. Hence, the media is very frequently heard discussing the “war on terror,” seeing as the politicians have coined the phrase and use it regularly to advise the public about their policies concerning the issue.Another important example of framing in this context is the recent popularization of the term "escalation" to describe an increase in troop levels in war torn Iraq.

This term, “escalation” implies that the United States of America is deliberately heightening the scope of the conflict inmanner that is provocative (“Framing”).Christian Spielvogel writes that both George W. Bush and John Kerry, during the 2004 presidential campaign, relied upon the moral framing of the “war on terrorism” and the situation in Iraq as a battle between “good and evil” in their day to day political discourse. Moreover, President Bush employed this rhetorical frame “to politically and morally cloak the war in Iraq under a larger war on terror.

” One of the principal experts on the communication theory of framing is George Lakeoff, who has written books on the subject as it applies to politics.Lakeoff’s theory of political framing presumes that the political elites are the key framers of political discourse. A typical example offered by Lakeoff to explain political framing is that of the phrase, “tax relief” in place of “tax reform. ” Here, the use of the word “relief” implies that taxes are a burden on the citizen, and the government (as well as the politicians who use the phrase) are concerned about helping the citizen be granted relief from the burden (“Framing”). However, when a political party that does not make up the government uses the phrase “tax relief,” it should have a different effect on the listeners.

In this case, the listeners are most likely to believe that the political party that does not form the government is actually against the alleviation of the citizen’s suffering (Dern). Moreover, the use of the phrase “tax relief” on the part of the ruling party implies that everyone in the nation must love the government anyhow, given that nobody could ever vote against “relief” (Balluff).As far as “tax reform” is concerned, on the other hand, it is harder for the public to trust a promise of tremendous transformations in the tax structure, as implied by the word, “reform. Reforms may, after all, sometimes result in upheaval. Terms that frame political debate seek to reduce the possibilities of discourse by way of setting the vocabulary and metaphors using which an issue must be discussed. Lakeoff believes that framing cannot be avoided in political debate.

Rather, it is an inherent part of political discourse, and of all cognition, both conscious and unconscious. Still, the use of political framing implies that an effort must be made on the part of politicians to frame consciously (“Framing”). This is the reason why politicians employ skilled speech writers in the first place. Lakeoff has proposed a provocative account of electoral politics that highlights the significance of political semantics. He has argued that strategic political communication is pivotal to the outcome of elections.

Discussing both the Democrats and the Republicans in the United States, the linguist has stated that the party that is more capable of integrating issues with values, and the candidate with the sound bite that more intuitively evokes the triggering metaphor for the appropriate value system, wins the election. In Don’t Think of an Elephant! , the linguist has emphasized the framing of political discourse in terms of the fundamental value system, for example, tax relief or permission slip for waging war; rather than in terms of specific measures of performance, effectiveness or a candidate’s personal demeanor.In essence, Lakeoff has asserted that the power of political rhetoric derives first and foremost from the use of particular words and phrases that have the ability to elicit core value systems (Iyengar). “At the most general level,” writes Shanto Iyengar, “framing refers to the way in which opinions about an issue can be altered by emphasizing or deemphasizing particular facets of that issue.

” Lakeoff’s use of the framing concept provides unique understanding in the area.

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Russians vote in local and regional elections after biggest protests in years

By Gleb Stolyarov , Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Residents of Moscow voted on Sunday in one of the most closely watched local elections in years after the exclusion of many opposition candidates triggered the biggest protests in the Russian capital for nearly a decade.

Protests erupted in mid-July after the Central Election Commission refused to register a large numbers of opposition-minded candidates, saying they had failed to collect enough signatures from genuine backers - a response that President Vladimir Putin endorsed on Sunday after casting his ballot.

Those excluded, including allies of prominent opposition politician Alexei Navalny, denounced the move as a ruse designed to stop them winning seats in Moscow’s parliament.

Local or regional elections took place across all of Russia’s 11 time zones on Sunday. But the main focus was on Moscow after this summer’s demonstrations there turned into the biggest sustained protest movement in Russia since 2011-2013.

Data from the election commission suggested the turnout in Moscow would be a little more than 20%. Several videos shot in polling stations showed some voters openly stuffing ballot boxes with multiple voting slips circulated on social media.

Though local, the Moscow election was earmarked by Navalny and his allies as an opportunity to make inroads against the ruling pro-Putin United Russia party ahead of a national parliamentary election in 2021.

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The party’s popularity is at its lowest level in more than a decade.

Putin, asked after voting in central Moscow if he would have preferred more diversity and a larger number of election candidates, told reporters: “In some countries there are 30, 50 and 100 (candidates). It’s not important how many there are, but of what quality they are.”

At more than 60%, Putin’s own popularity rating is much higher than most Western leaders, though lower than it has been previously. The former KGB officer won a landslide election victory last year that will keep him in office until 2024.

United Russia’s popularity is suffering from discontent over a move to raise the retirement age at a time of steadily falling incomes and its Moscow candidates rebranded as independents in an apparent effort to distance themselves from it formally.

Navalny advised his supporters to vote tactically across Russia to reduce the party’s influence.

One 25-year-old Muscovite, a lawyer who gave his name only as Vladislav, said he had voted tactically for Sergey Mitrokhin, of the opposition Yabloko party, “because I’m tired of United Russia, stealing and everything that follows”.

“I hope that smart voting will work ... We have to start changing something (and) ... there is nothing to lose any more,” he told Reuters.

Police detained about a dozen opposition activists near Moscow’s city hall on Sunday. The activists were wearing T-shirts drawing attention to the fate of people the authorities have charged in connection with this summer’s protests.

Additional reporting by Andrey Kuzmin; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by David Goodman

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Journalism fails miserably at explaining what is really happening to America

Momentous week of GOP debate, Trump's arrest gets "horse race" coverage when the story's not about an election, but authoritarianism.

Thousands of Trump supporters march toward the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.

They stood on an arena stage in Milwaukee under a massive sign that read “Democracy” — the metaphorical 800-pound gorilla that loomed over this strange political event but was never really discussed . When the dust finally settled after two hours of the first televised debate of the 2024 GOP primaries, nothing — from the rude kids-table outbursts from the impertinent Vivek Ramaswamy to the doomed efforts by Nikki Haley or Mike Pence to be the grown-ups in the room — actually mattered inside the airy Fiserv Forum except for one thing.

All those not-so-wonderful people out there in the dark. A mob that raged, and ultimately ruled.

This audience seemed to only care about The Man Who Wasn’t There — Donald Trump, who was too busy refueling his private jet for his next arrest to bother attending. The restive crowd reached its peak when its bête noire , the anti-Trump turncoat Chris Christie, dared try to challenge Ramaswamy’s outburst that POTUS 45 “was the best president of the 21st century.” It filled the basketball arena with boos.

The pro-Trump ruckus was such that Fox News coanchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum dramatically turned around to face the audience. “So listen,” Baier said, “the more time we spend doing this, the less time they can talk about issues you want to talk about.”

LOL. As the night dragged on, the only “issues” the crowd seemed jazzed about were brash challenges to scientific truths that it considers elite liberal pieties — like Ramaswamy’s false claim that climate change solutions have killed more people than climate change — or authoritarian vows of violence, like Ron DeSantis’ promise to render any drug dealers at the border “ stone cold dead .” None of the eight people on that stage “won” — only Trump, his angry mob, and a 21st-century brand of American fascism that is the enemy of democracy, the writing on the wall.

If you watched the hours of TV news coverage during an especially momentous week in August, there was little sense of that reality, and for long stretches of pundit blather, none at all — as talking heads gave earnest high school debating marks to candidates who are all but ignored by the GOP voter base. The disconnect deepened the next night as Trump turned what would surely be his comeuppance — his surrender at Atlanta’s bug-infested county jail for fingerprinting and a mug shot ― into an outlaw display of authoritarian force.

It was a remarkable night of imagery over substance, yet there was little discussion of why this accused felon was getting a phalanx of dozens of motorcycle cops, comprising police who are drawn to Trump’s authoritarian bluster like moths to the light. Trump’s glowering mug shot instantly became the most talked about picture in American history — yet not one pundit was able to explain why tens of millions of everyday voters are so eager to return to the White House this man who attempted a coup on Jan. 6, 2021, or why his poll numbers rise with each indictment. I guess the 20th-century author and socialist Upton Sinclair really nailed it when he wrote , “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

» READ MORE: America needs to confront its ‘Mussolini moment’ | Will Bunch Newsletter

America is entering its most important, pivotal year since 1860, and the U.S. media is doing a terrible job explaining what is actually happening. Too many of us — with our highfalutin poli-sci degrees and our dog-eared copies of the late Richard Ben Cramer ’s What It Takes — are still covering elections like it’s the 20th century, as if the old touchstones like debates or a 30-second spot still matter.

What we are building toward on Nov. 5, 2024, might have the outward trappings of an election, but it is really a show of force. What we call the Republican Party is barely a political party in any sense of the word, but a dangerous antisocial movement that has embraced many of the tenets of fascism , from calls for violence to its dehumanizing of “others” — from desperate refugees at the border to transgender youth .

There is, in reality, no 2024 primary because this movement embraced its infallible strongman in Trump eight years ago. And there is no “Trump scandal” because — for them — each new crime or sexual assault is merely another indictment of the messenger , the arrogant elites from whom their contempt is the number one issue. These foot soldiers stopped believing in “democracy” a long time ago — no matter how big an Orwellian sign Fox News erects.

If you watch enough not-Fox cable TV news, you’ll occasionally see an expert on fascism like New York University’s Ruth Ben-Ghiat or Yale’s Timothy Snyder explaining the roots of this American authoritarianism, or you can read a piece like Margaret Sullivan’s Guardian take on the fascist appeal of Trump-clone Ramaswamy. But then it’s back to your regular programming, including a desperate desire to frame today’s clash in the context of long-lost 20th-century democratic norms, and to blame any transgressions on a mysterious “tribalism” that plagues “both sides.”

This weekend, the New York Times’ Peter Baker, an influential news analyst, noted on Twitter/X that in 1994 some 21% of Republicans and 17% of Democrats viewed the other party negatively, which has risen to 62% (GOP) and 54% (Dems). Baker was recommending a story condemning “ tribalism ,” when what we are really seeing here is the vitriol of an authoritarian movement and the increasing condemnation from those who are appalled by it.

Some of the media’s worst avatars of what increasingly feels like hopeless democracy nostalgia are so-called never-Trump conservatives like Kathleen Parker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist now with the Washington Post. It was Parker who famously predicted on the eve of the 2016 election that a victorious Trump would “dress up and behave at state dinners and be funny when called upon” and show contempt for Vladimir Putin, in the most notoriously wrong column of all time: “ Calm down. We’ll be fine no matter who wins .” Rather than slowly back into the bushes , Homer Simpson-style, Parker is still pining for normalcy, declaring last week that Haley won the Milwaukee debate “ poised, precise and prepared ” — as if that mattered in the lion’s den of Fiserv Forum.

Of course, D.C. pundits like Parker or Baker are trained to talk to the folks on the stage and their high-priced consultants, not the mob that inexorably moves modern Republicanism away from believing in elections. I’ve been inside and outside of Trump rallies in Hershey and West Chester and Wildwood , and what I learned is that the only issue that matters isn’t an issue at all, but their contempt for the media outlets like CNN they believe look down on them and their savior. Of course, the salary of Baker or Parker or the CNN punditocracy depends on not understanding that.

It was so revealing Wednesday night when Fox News launched its debate coverage by playing a snippet of Oliver Anthony’s No. 1 hit , the blue-collar populist rant “Rich Men North of Richmond,” with its mix of anti-government elitism and a downward punch at welfare recipients. It felt like the Fox message was, “We’re not comfortable talking about what’s really happening with the white working class in America, so we’re just going to turn it over to this angry singer with the big beard.”

The news media better get comfortable talking about what is really happening in places like Anthony’s Farmville, Va. They ought to be explaining both the legitimate anger voiced by the singer’s lament over working overtime hours for low pay, the manipulation of that anger by demagogues like Trump, and the uncomfortable questions about how much of the rage is over threats to outdated and detestable hierarchies of white supremacy and the patriarchy.

Anthony isn’t the only one doing a better job discussing this than our journalists. On Saturday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders went to New Hampshire to both endorse the reelection of President Joe Biden as a defense against authoritarianism — but also to warn his fellow Democrats they need to do a much better job addressing the discontents of the American middle class. Said Sanders : “In the United States, and in fact around the world, support for the establishment and their institutions is in decline. People want change. And change will come. The question is: What kind of change will it be?” Not surprisingly, Sanders’ important speech was barely mentioned in the media.

Almost on cue, the GOP’s Ramaswamy went on CNN Sunday morning with a dark, right-wing appeal that is the change far too many people are seeking, in a stunning riff that blamed this weekend’s racist mass shooting in Jacksonville, Fla., by a white gunman who targeted Black people not on racism, but on anti-racism and the media. Ramaswamy insisted that the media, universities, and certain politicians have rekindled racism and that “I can think of no better way to fuel racism in this country than by taking something away from people based on their skin color.” Meaning white people.

These are the stakes: dueling visions for America — not Democratic or Republican, with parades and red, white, and blue balloons, but brutal fascism or flawed democracy. The news media needs to stop with the horse race coverage of this modern-day March on Rome , stop digging incessantly for proof that both sides are guilty of the same sins, and stop thinking that a war for the imperiled survival of the American Experiment is some kind of inexplicable “tribalism.”

We need to hear from more experts on authoritarian movements and fewer pollsters and political strategists. We need journalists who’ll talk a lot less about who’s up or down and a lot more about the stakes — including Trump’s plans to dismantle the democratic norms that he calls “the administrative state,” to weaponize the criminal justice system, and to surrender the war against climate change — if the 45th president becomes the 47th. We need the media to see 2024 not as a traditional election, but as an effort to mobilize a mass movement that would undo democracy and splatter America with more blood like what was shed Saturday in Jacksonville. We need to understand that if the next 15 months remain the worst-covered election in U.S. history, it might also be the last.

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Why Biden Can’t Expedite Work Permits for Migrants

Congress is unwilling to change entrenched immigration laws. Other options face lawsuits or backlogs that could lead to even longer waits.

People wait in a crowded line on a city street.

By Eileen Sullivan

Reporting from Washington

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York has blamed the White House for failing to respond to her call to expedite work permits for the influx of migrants arriving in the state.

More than 100,000 migrants have traveled to New York City from the southern border over the past year, relying on the state and city government for food, shelter, medical care and education. Governor Hochul has been urging the Biden administration to get work permits to asylum seekers faster so that they can support themselves and their families as they wait out the years it takes for their cases to wind through the immigration system.

Under federal law, migrants have to wait about six months after they file their asylum application before they can apply for permission to work in the United States legally. This has forced asylum seekers to rely on communities to support them and has led to more people entering the illegal work force.

For New York, the costs to support the asylum seekers are in the billions. Other governors and local officials have made similar requests to the Biden administration, as they too have struggled to assist the influx of migrants.

For the most part, asylum seekers want to work and pay taxes, and businesses across the country are anxious to fill job openings that have lingered since the pandemic.

Here are the reasons the Biden administration can’t make changes quickly.

The delay is enshrined in law.

In 1996, Congress stipulated that asylum seekers had to wait nearly six months after they filed their asylum application before they could apply for permission to work in the United States. At the time, it was taking the government months to consider individual asylum applications, and there was a concern that tens of thousands of foreigners were using the system as a backdoor to work in the United States because they could work while they waited for a decision.

Lawmakers believed that forcing asylum seekers to wait six months before they could apply to work would discourage people from crossing the border illegally and making potentially fraudulent asylum claims so they could get jobs.

But over the years, the backlog for asylum applications has grown, and so has the wait time for cases to be decided. As of July, there were 2.5 million cases pending in immigration court, with an average processing time of four years, according to data collected by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

In that context, a six-month delay does little to discourage people from making fraudulent asylum claims. Instead, it places the burden on local communities to support asylum seekers for at least eight months and often longer. Migrants have one year from entering the country illegally to submit an asylum application. It is rare that people, who are often fleeing trauma and are unsettled in a foreign place, file asylum applications shortly after they arrive to the United States.

Processing applications for work permits for asylum seekers is not the issue. That generally takes less than two months, according to government data . The problem is how long migrants have to wait and rely on community support before they can submit their applications.

Congress cannot agree on changes to the law.

For the past 15 years, Congress has failed to agree on how to update the country’s immigration system, even as the current laws date back to the 1980s and 1990s and were designed around a much different U.S. economy and demographic set of migrants.

Immigration has become more and more politically divisive, and there is little sign lawmakers will find a compromise anytime soon.

There are proposals in both the House and Senate to reduce the wait time to apply for work authorization for certain asylum seekers from six months to 30 days. But there is scant support for either bill.

Lawmakers in both political parties worry that shrinking the wait time for work permits will encourage more migrants to cross the border illegally.

The few options President Biden has face legal and logistical challenges.

One of these options is to offer humanitarian relief to people from certain countries through a program called temporary protected status . This benefit, which typically lasts 18 months, comes with work authorization. The government can extend the relief as it sees fit.

Ms. Hochul and other officials have asked the Biden administration to make new and extend existing temporary designations, particularly for countries whose nationals have fled in large numbers and are seeking asylum in the United States. For New York, Ms. Hochul said, an expanded designation for Venezuelans would be particularly helpful since they make up a large share of the migrant population there. Currently , only Venezuelans who were in the United States on March 8, 2021, and applied by Nov. 7, 2022, are covered by the designation.

As of March, there were more than 610,000 people from 16 countries living in the United States under this designation. And there are more than 428,000 applications for this protection pending, with a median time of 13 months to process these applications. Even if the Biden administration expanded and made new designations, work authorizations would not likely get into asylum seekers’ hands any sooner because of the backlog .

The other option the president has that does not require Congress is to issue humanitarian parole, which comes with work authorization, on a case-by-case basis if there is an urgent need.

The Biden administration already does this for people from certain countries. One of those programs, which extends a two-year humanitarian parole for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who have sponsors committed to supporting their needs, is facing a legal challenge from 21 Republican-led states.

The administration also offers humanitarian parole of up to two years and immediate permission to apply for a work permit for some migrants who register through a smartphone app, called CBP One, for an appointment at an official port of entry on the U.S. southern border. But White House officials said very few people receiving humanitarian parole and eligible to apply right away for a work permit have done so.

Democrats in Illinois and other parts of the country are asking the Biden administration to create a humanitarian parole program that pairs with the individual employment needs of states. Gov. Eric Holcomb , Republican of Indiana, has said his state would support this type of program as well.

But a new humanitarian parole program that comes with work authorization would not do anything to help other asylum seekers in the country waiting for permission to work.

Federal officials said they can offer some short-term help, but that won’t solve the problem.

Ms. Hochul met with officials in the White House on Wednesday. The Biden administration said it would continue to help with housing and additional federal assistance for education and health services.

Officials also said the administration would launch an effort to assist asylum seekers — in New York and around the country — who are already eligible to apply for work authorization but have yet to do so. But that will only cover a fraction of the asylum seekers in New York who cannot support themselves.

Eileen Sullivan is a Washington correspondent covering the Department of Homeland Security. Previously, she worked at the Associated Press where she won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. More about Eileen Sullivan

New York's Democratic mayor and the Biden administration are fighting over what to do about a surge of migrants

Asylum seekers spend another day on the sidewalk outside of the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan New York City, NY August 1, 2023. The hotel which has been an intake processing center for migrants seeking asylum are completely full to capacity.

Tensions are rising between the New York City mayor’s office and the state and federal government s over how to handle more than 58,000 asylum-seekers now in the city’s care, as the Biden administration resists a quick fix proposed by the state and city.

Many migrants, some of them shipped to New York by Republican governors to the south, have been sleeping on the streets after existing hotels and shelters reached capacity, and they are starting to fill new shelters converted from houses of worship and schools. Opponents of the new migrant shelters rallied this week at protests in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens . 

Mayor Eric Adams , a Democrat, has repeatedly blamed the Biden administration for not giving the city more resources to house the migrants and fast-track them for work authorization. 

People attend a protest against the "tent city" for migrants at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center on August 16, 2023 in the Queens borough of New York City. The "tent city" meant for migrants opened on Tuesday and is expected to host about 1,000 migrants as state officials struggle to handle the influx of asylum seekers.

“We’ve been saying it since last year: We need the federal government to allow asylum-seekers to work, so they can provide for themselves and their families,” he said Thursday. 

So why won’t the federal government fast-track work authorization for the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers in New York City’s shelter system?

Two senior Department of Homeland Security officials told NBC News the administration’s hands are tied because of a rule that requires asylum-seekers to wait 180 days before applying for work authorization. The officials said it would take an act of Congress to change the law. 

political framing essay

New York City and state face off in ongoing migrant crisis

But the Adams administration has proposed another solution to the problem: Granting Temporary Protected Status to certain nationalities, such as Venezuelans, that would let them apply for work permits instantly.

“We are calling on the White House, the United States Department of Homeland Security to ensure our newest Americans can work lawfully and build stable lives for themselves in our country. Our leaders in Washington must redesignate and extend Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS,” Adams said at a news conference in May. “And we want to be included those from Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon and other nations. Given the continuing worsening humanitarian crisis in those countries, they are going to pursue the stability that our country has to offer.”

But the two Homeland Security officials said it’s not that easy. The Biden administration previously made Temporary Protected Status available to Venezuelans but only for those who were already living here before March 2021. Most Venezuelans living on the streets and in New York's shelters crossed the U.S.-Mexico border more recently and are not eligible.

A former Homeland Security official said the agency is reluctant to grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans and other nationalities unless there are new crises in their home countries that would justify making recent arrivals in the U.S. eligible.

“There is a concern that granting TPS to one nationality will spur others from that country to come here,” said one former Homeland Security official. “The concern is that word will get out, even through misinformation, and others will think they too can work and live here.”

Adams has also said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, should speed up its processing time to approve work permits after migrants apply. A spokesperson for USCIS said the agency’s processing time for asylum-based work authorizations has been less than two months this fiscal year. 

Another challenge, the Homeland Security officials said, was that many of the migrants on the streets of New York had entered the country illegally or without detection, and are not actually seeking asylum through U.S. immigration courts, making them ineligible for asylum.

political framing essay

New York officials spar over handling of onging migrant crisis

Homeland Security does allow migrants to apply immediately for work authorization if they have used a number of legal pathways to seek asylum, including by making an appointment through the CBP One app or enrolling in a parole process designated for nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Adams has also called on the federal government to implement “decompression strategies” to make sure some cities, like New York, aren’t taking on a disproportionate amount of the burden to shelter newly arrived immigrants. Just this week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced $77 million in funding for communities receiving migrants, bringing the total given to cities along the border and in the interior, like New York, more than $770 million. The Biden administration has also asked Congress to approve more than $600 million more for cities taking in migrants. 

But Adams says the city will incur a $12 billion bill if it doesn’t get more help to shelter the migrants, and he has called on both the federal and state governments to do more to support the city.

Meanwhile, the state's governor, also a Democrat, has accused Adams of taking too long to communicate with the state and to take action to avoid a crisis.

In a 12-page letter to Adams last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul said, “The city can and should do more to act in a proactive and collaborative manner with the state."

But, like Adams, Hochul wants more from the federal government, including a way for migrants to find work. On Thursday, Hochul sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking that the federal government "expedite work authorizations," "provide the state and the city with significant financial assistance" and let the city use federal buildings as shelters.

"I cannot ask New Yorkers to pay for what is fundamentally a federal responsibility," she wrote, "and I urge the federal government to take prompt and significant action today to meet its obligation to New York state."

political framing essay

Julia Ainsley is homeland security correspondent for NBC News and covers the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department for the NBC News Investigative Unit.


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