Understanding Health Care Reform in Comments Sections of Online News Sites Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Marshall, Laura
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Mass Communication Graduate Program
  • Since the idea of a universal national healthcare system was first introduced in the United States in the 1920s, the messages propagated by its opponents and supporters have been fraught with emotional images and inflammatory rhetoric. In the recent past, opponents have accused supporters of proposing the creation of “death panels” and advocating the intrusion of emotionless bureaucrats into physician-patient privacy. Clinicians who supported government health care programs were characterized as “insurgents” and insurers as evil, profit-hungry entities unconcerned with their members’ health. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed the United States Congress in 2009. It was intended to create a national infrastructure providing insurance coverage for individuals who could not otherwise afford or obtain health care without considerable personal expense. It is a complex law, constituting nearly a thousand pages, and its provisions were implemented gradually after its passage. The very complexity of the ACA likely contributes to continued misunderstanding of its tenets as much as its politics do. This research analyzes stories about one Supreme Court ruling affecting the ACA in early 2016 (King v. Burwell) as published in two openly-partisan online news outlets and the comments posted in response to those stories. Using Grounded Theory (GT), analysis examines social interactions among commenters and their influence upon affect messages about the law, as well as how messages within the text of the stories themselves are accepted and reified—or rejected—by the audiences on those websites. The principal finding of this study, the grounded theory that emerged, is that the social processes involved in these conversations proceed from group identifying via “othering” language, through information-seeking and exchange, to proposing solutions which are either hopeful or pessimistic. The content of the conversations between partisan websites has more in common than previous studies have indicated about politically-divided audiences and offers potential tools for professional communicators.
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  • In Copyright
  • Friedman, Barbara
  • Gollust, Sarah
  • Comello, Maria Leonora
  • Vargas, Lucila
  • Southwell, Brian
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017

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