Winning American hearts and minds: Country characteristics, public relations and mass media

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Mass media, Country characteristics, Public opinion, International news, Public relations, Public diplomacy

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This study looks at how a country's political, economic and cultural characteristics and its public relations effort in the United States may influence U.S. media's coverage of the country and Americans' opinions toward the country. Both the direct and mediated effects of country characteristics and public relations effort on public opinion are tested through two empirical studies. The first is a cross-sectional study that examines how 32 countries' characteristics and public relations efforts in the U.S. in one year may influence the U.S. media's coverage of these countries and Americans' opinion toward these countries. The second is a longitudinal study that looks at the effect of China's change in economic development, political freedom, and its public relations effort in the past 30 years on U.S. media's coverage of China and Americans' opinions toward China.

A country's cultural similarity to the U.S. in terms of language, religion, and political freedom was found to be significant in predicting the U.S. media's coverage of the country and Americans' opinion toward the country, with more similarity leading to more positive coverage and more favorable opinions. The valence of news coverage shows a significant positive effect on Americans' opinions toward foreign countries even when controlling for country characteristics and public relations effort. China's public relations effort in the U.S. has a positive effect on the amount and valence of coverage China received in the U.S. media with more public relations contracts leading to larger amount and more positive coverage.


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