Media Affecting Public Opinion
The media is an intricate part of American government, intertwined with the practice of democracy, but to what extent does the media influence public opinion? To answer that several aspects of media coverage have to be explored. The media is America’s basic resource for all the news concerning American politics. Also, the opinion expressed by the press influences the opinion adopted by the public. Lastly the issues the media deem important help set the national agenda and to affect the publics opinion of voting.
The most basic way the media influences public opinion is by offering knowledge about government decisions and access to government information. Daily the press delivers the raw information to the nation, who then in turn forms that into opinions. The media sends messages across the nation. Without the media it would take the public longer to become educated about governmental proceedings. Before the advancement of such media as the television, radio, and the Internet, a much smaller percentage of Americans were informed about the issues concerning the nation.
Another affective way the media impacts the public opinion is through agenda setting. Because of the vast number of issues plaguing America today, the press has to decide which they will cover and which they will not. Their reporting has a vital connection to what the public comes to believe are the important issues in the country. If the press repeatedly covers the gun control issue, then the nation itself comes to believe that it is significant. Because the nation sees it as being important, then it is introduced into legislature quite rapidly. The press possesses the capability to create the impression that certain problems are of greater urgency than others. Those certain problems are usually about political strategy, political scandal and the private lives of politicians. These tend to over take the less entertaining, but more substantial stories because the public is not interested in them and they do not make money for the news company.
One of the most ironic ways the media influences public opinion is by presenting the candidates personality through the use of television and radio. Could one honestly say that Abraham Lincoln might not be elected if he were running today. Lincoln was not a very attractive man and did not have a very refined voice. How would Lincoln have looked and sounded on television and radio? The public may be stubborn to admit it, but it is true; the nation judges possible candidates upon appearances and performances (mass media). If a presidential candidate could not speak in front of large groups, they could never be elected in today’s society. It would not matter that his or her policies were better than their opponents.
Furthermore, the media can influence public opinion is through their ability to convey an overall tone to their readers and viewers according to their own sentiments. Often a newspaper’s own feelings on a certain issue are expressed in their articles. When the public reads about such issues they can adopt the attitude which the media portrayed. The press may frame stories in a way that enhances the overall tone toward government and politics. Unfortunately the most common trend is to hold a negative attitude toward government. This negative tone has led to a national decline in voter participation. A greater portion of the country now attains a skeptical view of the American government.
However, News programs constantly bombard the public with campaign coverage that negatively affects the way people vote. The most noticeable effect the TV news media causes is a decrease in voter attendance at the ballot boxes. News coverage of political campaigns reduces voter turnout because of the negative campaign tactics used by candidates and their parties. Voter turnout has significantly dropped from 75 %-85% in during the 19th century to fewer than 55% in modern day elections (Lewis). The result of low voter turnout reveals a negative attitude towards politics from America's citizens. The most effective discouragement to voting is exit polls that predict the outcome of an election or in modern terms electronic forecasting. Exit polling on or before Election Day has become the predominant method used by mass media in American politics for predicting