To understand the role of election campaigns towards the end result it is necessary to understand that two ideas exist. It is believed that the voters decide for their candidate before the campaigning starts, while the others believe that it through active campaigning that voters reach their decision. The purpose of political campaigns is to do one of three things to affect the voter: motivate, reinforce and convert. It is also important to understand that a political campaign is not a single event but rather a series of events that shape the voter’s perception of the candidates. The shaping of this perception is a direct result of how the media portrays the candidate and the campaign.
Motivate represents those set of individuals who did not intend to vote but have decided to because of a candidate’s campaign. Thus, they have been stimulated to vote for or against a candidate. The reinforced groups are those voters who had already been supporting the candidate and the campaign has reinforced their choice. Lastly the converted voters are those who had been previously supporting another candidate but have been impressed by the opponent’s campaign that they have decided to change their vote.
It is here that we will discuss how the media has changed in the last 30 years and how it has influenced the three groups listed above that make up the American voting public. We will review the three main media sources and their affects on voters: television, the internet and print. I feel that the media is the most significant factor in a political campaign.
Despite the growth of the internet for campaign news, television remains the public's main source for such information. However, television is not as dominant as at once was: 60% say they get most of their news about the presidential election from television (local, cable and network outlets combined), down from 68% at comparable points in the 2004 and 2000 campaigns.
By this measure, the internet is still a secondary news source. Only 15% of Americans say they get most of their news about the election online, although that figure has more than doubled since 2004 (from 6%).
Overall, 26% of Americans mention the internet either first or second as their main source of election news. Among young people, the internet is eroding television's advantage as a main source for election news. Six-in-ten of those ages 18 to 29 cite television as their main source for election news, down from 75% four years ago. Over that time, the proportion citing the internet has more than doubled from 21% to 46%. Notably, while newspapers were mentioned more often as a campaign news source among young people four years ago, today those under age 30 are almost twice as likely to mention the internet as newspapers as where they get most of their news about the election (46% vs. 24%).
Since the invention of the television, the role of the media has increased greatly. Television has created a medium where literacy and wealth were no longer factors in understanding politics. However, the invention of this new venue has raised the question of whether the views represented on television shows and news broadcasts portrayed a wide range of views or a limited viewpoint to the public they serve.
Until the 1980s, the American public received only three channels from the national networks ABC, CBS and NBC. The limited amount of viewing choices raised concern about validity of the views represented and the fairness of the media’s coverage of politics. This all changed with the deregulation of the telecommunications industry and led to the development of cable networks. By the 1990s, most American households had access to over 30 channels of cable television, which represented much broader viewpoints in politics.
Changes in American laws and the advancement of technology transformed the media in...