Framing Political Distrust -- Online public discussion during the Li Gang Scandal
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This research investigates the online public discussion during the Li Gang Scandal in order to understand how the public framing led to political distrust in China. It seeks to address the following questions: (a) why do framing activities of political distrust gain popularity, (b) how were popular beliefs formed, (c) what was made more salient and what was underrepresented. Frame analysis was employed to identify different frame packages which emerged and frame interactions among various levels and different locations. Data were collected through the “Tianya Forum.” Nine threads with 20179 replies were analyzed and in total, 7235 related segments were coded. Results demonstrated that political distrust frames at the system level or even at the broader context level were widely accepted. Several key events were highlighted in order to enhance the political distrust frame and raise the collective negative emotions. Both the key events and the emotional mood functioned in the context which excreted influence on the individuals’ acceptance of frames. In addition, the results indicated that deeper roots of political distrust lie in the dissatisfactions towards the government’s poor management of social issues and perception of unequal positions in political reality. The new media also contributed to the spread of political distrust by offering a forum for communication, when the information available in the formalized channel was questioned by the public. In the specific context of new media, sponsors of the pro-distrust frame package made their voice dominant.