Collective communication in congress

Benjamin A. Dworkin
2015
Caucus leaders in the House of Representatives are distinguished from other leaders by their roles as agents for the entire caucus. Therefore, they seek to cater to the needs of their members, especially the prospects for individual reelection and collectively maintaining or attaining majority status. The electoral priority relies, in large part, on building a strong party brand and that requires active leadership engagement as national messengers speaking on behalf of the entire congressional
more » ... arty. Between 1981 and 2010, top leaders in the House dramatically expanded the time, resources, and personnel dedicated to promoting their collective partisan narratives in the national media. Simultaneously, they navigated dramatic internal and exogenous change, including the aftereffects of 1970s reforms, the emergence of unique, ambitious leadership personalities, increasing sophistication in messaging technology, the changing media landscape, and a sharp rise in partisanship. We know very little about how this transpired and under what conditions leaders were more or less successful in their quest to generate coverage. This dissertation examines those questions while taking into account the current literature's tendency to ignore differences between majority and minority leaders, Democrats and Republicans, and caucus leaders and anyone else with a leadership title. By employing qualitative data from nineteen interviews with former communications staff members for top House leaders, and content analysis generated from 3,096 articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times, randomly selected from the thirty-year period, this dissertation finds that coverage of congressional leadership is largely driven by the power bias: reporters write about those who have the greatest ability to affect the final outcome in the House. The majority party, therefore, consistently retains this advantage. Further, quantitative analysis that operationalizes "media coverage" in five different ways produced [...]
doi:10.7282/t3qv3pgx fatcat:hftatwqrdbhdlntd4v54vhfcra