Masking the Second Amendment: Issue agenda building during the 2020 American presidential election

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Virginia Tech


This study content analyzed interest group and candidate tweets from the 2020 American presidential election to determine what issues and substantive attributes were most salient on interest group and candidate agendas during the "hot phase" of the campaign. Cross-lagged correlations were conducted during two time periods from Labor Day to Election Day 2020 to measure agenda building effects. These tests were conducted for Democratic nominee and eventual President Joe R. Biden, and Republican nominee and former President Donald J. Trump. These tests were also conducted for two issue-based interest groups: Everytown for Gun Safety and the National Rifle Association.

Findings indicate that Biden influenced Trump's campaign agenda, but Trump did not influence Biden's. The interest groups showed reciprocal influence with each other. Given the unprecedented nature of the 2020 election, the candidates were largely talking about the same issues. However, substantive attributes reveal the candidates' true issue agenda. This study offers methodological innovation by utilizing NVivo for content analysis.



Agenda setting, presidential politics, Twitter, tweets, political public relations, content analysis, substantive attributes