Impact of Modern Media on Elections
The Modern Media revolution is transforming business and the economy, leading to the creation of entirely new markets and transformation (and sometimes destruction) of old ones. Its consequences for politics are finer but similarly deep. New technologies, including principally the Internet but also advances in HD Television, in cryptography, in telecommunications, in the database & data-mining techniques, and other improvements, are not causing the radical and immediate change of politics as some expected. But they are obviously redesigning main regions of political activity, including political participation, electoral campaigns, and interstate relations. (Jamieson, 2009)
Just like many other fields, modern media has a very vital impact on elections and politics.
There is much about elections that is thrilling, at least if one is a politically occupied national. The chance to do volunteer work in a campaign that one believes in. The chance to shake hands with a renowned contestant. The show and color of the nominating conventions. And, lastly, the suspense on election night as the names of the losers and winners are revealed. On the other hand, there is much about elections that the public finds boring. The long speeches. The negative campaigning that seems to get nastier and more prevalent with every election. The constant appeals for money for this or that campaign. And, finally, the sheer duration of the campaign seasons, which are longer in the United States than in almost any other democratic country and perhaps much longer than they need to be to ensure that the voters have sufficient information to make intelligent choices. (Comstock, 2008)
What separates the exciting from the boring is chiefly the presence or absence of drama, and that in turn helps to determine the amount of attention a campaign receives from the news media, especially television and the online media that in recent years have grown to compete with traditional print and broadcast outlets as the public's primary sources of political news. In the highly competitive news business, the media are looking for a larger audience share or greater readership.
In a major change from the 1800s, print and electronic media not only report polling information but also produce it regularly. Moreover, TV networks and newspaper outlets have combined to produce and disseminate public opinion. For example, the results of a New York Times poll/CBS News may appear in a story in the Times, a report on CBS Nightly News, and in news releases by both organizations. These polling conglomerates provide a constant source of public opinion for the news organizations while spreading the costs. Media outlets initially sought constant sources of opinion to bolster their campaign and election coverage. (Graber, 2006)
During campaigns, modern media use poll data primarily to keep track of the “horserace”—who is ahead, who is behind, and whose fortunes have changed most dramatically. The media do track responses to the issues and candidate issue positions, but the horserace poll data dominate most media coverage of most campaigns. In the 2000 presidential race, the media polls increasingly frustrated journalists covering the campaign. From September through November, all media polls (as well as Gallup and Harris) revealed an exceptionally close race. Republican candidate Governor George W. Bush and Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore fluctuated back and forth, running neck and neck in the polls. Nightly newscasts regularly cited 40–45% of US citizens supporting each candidate, with 10–20% claiming to be in doubt. With a margin of mistake of minus or plus 5%, the presidential race could not be called for either candidate. Thus, anchors and columnists were forced to inform their audience night after night that they could not predict the outcome: the race was too close to call. Of course, the polls turned out to be correct: the national race was too close to call, as the presidential race in individual states, like Florida, revealed. (Jamieson, 2009)
Between campaigns, modern media outlets continue to track and use public opinion data, although with less frequency than the barrage during election cycles. The most prevalent use of public opinion polling by the media is in presenting presidential approval ratings: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?” Because media outlets have the capability to conduct their own polls, surveys can be conducted across a range of issues with very little notice. Thus, on virtually any issue, electronic and print media outlets can relate public opinion to any news story whenever they choose. When newspapers use public opinion for issue articles, approximately 30% of the poll data concern economic issues, 40% concern domestic issues, and 30% concern foreign policy issues. On television, 70% of the poll data concern domestic issues, with 15% concerning economic and foreign policy issues.
In conclusion, it can be said that modern media has a very crucial impact on politics and elections. During a crisis, the modern media usually depend on public view to assess the government’s responses. In an conflicts, the media employ the president’s job approval rating as a signal for citizen support for the effort. Thus, as a president’s ratings typically increase in what is known as the rally-’round-the-flag effect, the media provide a conduit for displays of patriotism. However, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, media outlets did not display a significant amount of polling. In 2001, polling on terrorism represented only 15% of all issue polling on television. In contrast, 45% of all polls on television concerned the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in 1998.
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