Media Effects On Political Elections Research Paper
Voting or suffrage, as a cornerstone of democracy, has been considered as a rational act based on informed judgment wherein every citizen gets a chance to voice out his opinion through the polls. However, it is inevitable that an individual’s opinion or judgment can be influenced by outside forces such as the mass media in print, radio, television or internet. Ideally, media operations are expected to be limited to observation of election events. But in the real world, the media industry has been riddled with polarized convictions and is increasingly becoming vocal in their stand pro or against any political events such as the electoral process. As observed by Haswell, “it is often argued that the media sometimes are more participants than observers in political and election campaign processes, wielding tremendous power in agenda setting, the selection and treatment of campaign events, politicians and issues and even overt support of a political party”. For the same reason, this paper would like to investigate on how the media influence the election process and the reason why it is considered as one of the most significant factor in election outcomes.
Media as a Manipulative Tool
Historically, print, radio and television broadcasting has been utilized as a tool to influence public opinion and behavior. For the same reason, that led to public upheavals. In Germany, for example, researchers believe that radio propaganda has caused a significant effect on the rise of the Nazi party to power as well as an important tool that led to the extermination of the Jews. As observed by Adena et al, during the time when the radio was not yet politically polarized, mild anti-Nazi commentaries in the radio news programs between 1929 and 1932 was effective in reducing the pro-Nazi party results in three consecutive parliamentary elections but when Nazi got control over radio in 1933, the heavy pro-Nazi propaganda significantly secured public support towards the Nazi regime. On how media was able to influenced public opinion and behavior, Adena et al observed, “Radio propaganda helped Nazi to enroll new party members and encouraged denunciations of Jews leading to their deportation to concentration camps and caused open expressions of anti-Semitism, such as burning of synagogues and anti-Semitic letters to the national newspaper”. The media has also played a considerable role in propagating the hate messages that eventually led to the Rwandan Genocide. It is believed that propaganda and inflammatory “hate media” calling for the extermination of the Tutsi ethnic minority was instrumental in the violent public reaction in Rwanda. As observed by Thompson, newspapers would sometimes publish a cartoon depicting a political leader as a dog, a murderer or monster while another newspaper favorable to this political leader would retaliate by “publishing a cartoon depicting an opponent as a dog or a monster, or he would dehumanize the other or the other’s political party during a speech at a political rally” (Thompson, A., n.d., p. 84).
Two Ways on How Media Influence Election Outcomes
There is a widespread belief that media shape and influence the voter’s perception as well as reinforce his belief on what particular political party or candidate he might be standing for. For the same reason, several studies have been made to determine the mechanisms behind the role of media in influencing election outcomes. There are two ways in which media influence the electoral process and that is through 1) persuasion and 2) selective exposure. In persuasion, a partisan media sends out biased messages into a target population hoping to persuade most of them into voting a particular candidate. According to Prior, some recipients of the message that is aware of the biasness of the message are less likely to be swayed as they tend to question the credibility of the information however those who are less informed is most likely to believe the message. This effect can be related to cognitive biases, which are triggered when a stimulus that is created to manipulate a target population is employed. This crowd-swaying ability of the media has been observed in political campaigns and propaganda in history most especially during the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany. However, contemporary media are constrained with ethical standards that such obvious bias are not a viable option. Also, modern voters are becoming aware of the manipulative tendency of any biased information and may retaliate against media source. So as not to elicit opposition, partisan media employ partisan selective exposure by sending tailored messages, which are actually true yet engineered to elicit a particular response from the target population. Political surveys, for example, are among the earliest type of surveys that were conducted in polling history and can be considered as a selective exposure tactic. While survey polls are quite useful in forecasting election outcomes, publishing the results may influence several voters especially undecided ones. According to studies, there are two reasons why political surveys influence actual election result and that is through strategic voting and the contagion effect. According to scholars, people are motivated to strategically vote for the party or individual that has better chances as the survey suggests or get carried away by the perceived general opinion.
Because of their ability to be heard over a large population, the media has been known to have a significant effect on public opinion and behavior. It is only logical to think that the influence of media extends towards election outcomes by influencing the election process in a similar fashion as how it has influenced public opinion on political agendas. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that the media is indeed influential in the election process and, if left uncheck, could significantly affect the election outcome.
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