Framing moral evaluations: Moral Foundations in U.S. newspaper coverage of mosque controversies

by Bowe, Brian J., Ph.D., MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY, 2014, 116 pages; 3630481


In recent years, attempts by Muslims all across the U.S. to build worship spaces have been met with opposition. Some opponents questioned whether Islam should be considered a religion afforded all the protections of the First Amendment, or whether it is a sinister ideology that posed a threat to American values and should therefore be opposed. Supporters, on the other hand, argued that protecting the rights of Muslims to worship freely is a validation of important American principles. This debate played out in news coverage of the issue.

This dissertation examines the discourse in the debate through a framing analysis of news articles and editorials (n=349) from five U.S. newspapers between 2010 and 2013. Framing is the selection and emphasis of certain problem definitions, causal attributions, moral evaluations, and treatment recommendations in discussion of an issue. This research makes a contribution to framing theory by using Moral Foundations Theory to improve the operationalization of the moral evaluation dimension of framing. A cluster analysis of moral foundations was conducted, which four moral foundation profiles, all of which were strongly rooted in socially binding moral foundations. Those moral foundation variables were subsequently incorporated into a full framing analysis. A cluster analysis of all the framing components revealed five frames: Local Regulation, Political Debate, Muslim Neighbors, Islamic Threat, and Legal Authority. A subsequent qualitative analysis validated that these five frames encompassed the bulk of the debate.

AdviserGeri Alumit Zeldes
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsJournalism; Islamic studies; Mass communication
Publication Number3630481

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