US Media and 2012 Elections


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An preview of the U.S. media's role in the upcoming elections.

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US Media and 2012 Elections

  1. Presented byProfessor Mark Grabowski
  2. Barack Obama Mitt RomneyIncumbent, Democrat Republican challenger
  3. • More likeable • Seen as out of personality touch due to• Killed OBL, ended wealth Iraq War • Flip-flopper• Passed healthcare • Seen as having reform, but will court overturn it? more economic• Hasn’t fixed savvy, according economy or kept to poll. And many promises economy will be #1 issue
  4. The latest polls show it’s a close race…
  5. A presidential change would be morean Obama loss than a Romney victory
  6. Most of Congress is up for re-election…
  7. It would be hard to overestimate theimportance of mass media in theU.S. electoral process. Nationaltelevision networks reach 99percent of all American homes,making contact across the entiresocioeconomic spectrum. Cablenews stations, radio and televisiontalk shows, newspapers, newsmagazines and Internet sites allprovide voters with informationabout the candidates. The contentand emphasis of their coverage areamong the most powerful factors indetermining how voters perceive thecandidates and the issues.
  8. USA vs. France:Comparison of people and daily newspapersFrance: 65 million people, 80 daily newspapersUSA: 300 million people, 1400 daily newspapers
  9. The first president, George Washington, was afraid to run for a 2nd term due to the negative effects of the press. _________________________ America’s press has always impacted its elections ________________________John Quincy Adams blamed thepress for not supporting himenough when he lost hispresidential reelection bid in1829.
  10. Voters see media as influential• A Harvard poll of the previous presidential election found that 82% agree or strongly agree that media coverage has too much influence on who Americans vote for• And, to a large extent, negative coverage appears to be responsible for this influence;• 42% say the media has influenced their vote against a candidate through negative coverage, while only 28% say it has influenced their vote for a candidate through positive coverage.
  11. But they don’t trust it… The Harvard poll also found that 62% of those surveyed are distrustful of campaign media coverage.
  12. Media focuses on wrong issues• 89% agree or strongly agree that the news media focuses too much on trivial issues, according to the Harvard poll.
  13. They might be right…Recently, the big news of the day centered arounddogs. It came out that Mitt Romney tied his crateddog to the roof of the family car on a vacation …
  14. …and that Barack Obama ate dog when he was aboy living in Jakarta.Is either fact relevant to the election?
  15. Criticism: “Horse race coverage”Horse race coverage involves news storiesabout how successful candidates areperceived to be doing, what issues they arewinning or losing, and what their nexttactical move will be.
  16. Media ignore real issuesStudies have shown that broadcast mediadevote most of their coverage to thecompetition between the candidates ratherthan providing an explanation of issues and thecandidates stances on them. Eager to attractviewers, broadcasters focus on dramaticmoments that highlight candidates mistakes,attacks on opponents and suggestions ofscandal or problems.
  17. Coverage is not in-depth enoughEven when the media do provide campaigncoverage, the candidates may not get muchdirect airtime. In an academic study of majornetwork coverage of the 2000 elections, it wasfound that the news reporters talked for 74percent of the time; only 12 percent of the timedid viewers hear the actual candidates voicesand, when they did, the sound bite averagedonly 7.8 seconds.
  18. BUT, do people even care about issues?• Many political scientists believe that voters decide which candidate to vote for based on a visceral connection – i.e. whom could they see themselves having a beer with?• G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College, offers a good explanation.
  19. Professor Madonna argues that…Three conditions are necessary for issue votingto occur:(2)a voter must be aware of the issue andpossess some understanding of it;(3)then a voter must feel some intensity aboutthe issue;(4)finally a voter must perceive a differenceamong competing candidates on the issue andvote on the basis of that perception.
  20. Professor Madonna says…• Issue voting thus understood poses a stiff challenge to the average voter. In short, they must be informed, feel strongly, and vote consistently on the basis of their knowledge and feelings. Whew!• It has been estimated that on average about one in five voters meets this three-part test--knowledge, intensity, and voting follow through. They are the true "issue voters," meaning they are informed on particular issues, feel strongly about them, and vote on the basis of their knowledge and feelings.• So, some 80 percent of the electorate are not "issue voters" and by any measure that is an overwhelming proportion of voters. But this does not mean that issue voting is unimportant in elections.
  21. Professor Madonna says…• First, the obvious arithmetic: roughly 20 percent of all voters can be decisive in a close election, and Pennsylvania statewide elections are typically close.• Furthermore, some voters really do care about issues. Polls done by Madonna clearly illustrate the saliency of issues like the economy, education, health care, and property taxes.• And so we seemingly have a paradox. Voters care about issues--but most of them (80 percent) arent issue voters.
  22. Another problem: Media is biased• 77% agree or strongly agree that the news media is politically biased, according to the Harvard poll• 55% say media bias is a bigger problem in politics than big contributions, according to Rasmussen Reports.• Rasmussen also found in the past presidential election: 67 percent of the respondents think most media members wanted Obama to win. Just 11 percent thought most in the media were for his opponent, Senator John McCain.
  23. And theres strong evidence to support this…• In 2008, the Democratic Party received a total donation of $1,020,816, given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), while the Republican Party received only $142,863 via 193 donations, according to Washington Post.• Historically, 80 percent of news reporters vote Democrat.
  24. Pro-GOP media bias exists, too Left: Politically conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh has the #1 rated radio show, with more than 15 million daily listeners.Right: Fox News Channel is thetop rated cable news network –ahead of CNN and MSNBC –and notorious for having a pro-Republican slant.
  25. BUT … people prefer biased mediaAcademic studies indicate that most voters tendto seek out and believe information thatreinforces beliefs that they already hold. Theytune in to broadcasters who present a politicalviewpoint similar to their own. Two-thirds of theelectorate -- a figure that coincides with thenumber of voters who identify with a particularparty -- says that they have made up their mindsbefore campaigning even begins.
  26. First Amendment’s impact on electionsIn America, free speech is a core value and the pressfaces relatively few restrictions. The founders wanted anation “for the people, by the people and of the people.”Therefore, they believed it was essential to have anunfettered free press. The press have come to beviewed as another branchof government whose role is tobe a watchdog for citizens. Butcritics believe the press abusesits power sometimes…
  27. No such thing as privacyThe press will often diginto a candidate’spersonal life and past. 54percent of voters believesuch information (suchas Clinton’s affair) speaksto the candidates’characters while 46percent believe it shouldbe off-limits as it has nobearing on their ability togovern.
  28. Obama has come under scrutiny for drug useduring high school, while Romney has been accusedof bullying classmates. Should there be a statue oflimitations on teenage transgressions?
  29. Recent Supreme Court rulingIn 2010, the U.S.’s high court overturnedcampaign spending rules and held that the FirstAmendment prohibited the government fromrestricting independent political expenditures bycorporations and unions. Critics fear the rulingwill allow special interest groups to unfairlyinfluence the election.
  30. Money wins electionsIt’s clear that money counts in U.S. elections.Since 2000, the average winner in contests foropen House seats has outspent the averageloser by at least $310,000, according to figurescompiled by the nonpartisan Campaign FinanceInstitute. In races for open Senate seats, winnersoutspent losers, on average, in every yearexcept 2002.
  31. Money used to buy media• As a way of communicating more directly with voters, candidates buy television and radio advertising time. In the 2008 presidential election, presidential candidates spent $2.4 billion, with about 60 percent of it going to advertising.• Many of these ads are negative. See, e.g.,
  32. But, lots of transparency…• Open records laws allow voters to monitor who has donated how much to a certain politician.• The media and public interest groups also keep a watchful eye on the campaign money trail.• There are easy-to-use websites to look up donations.
  33. Too much transparency?Unlike France, the U.S. does not have atwo-day blackout of media and campaigningleading up tothe electionresults …which cancauseproblems
  34. In recent years, a controversy has developedaround the medias use of "exit polling," themedias practice of asking voters as they departa polling place how they voted and then usingthis information, often based on very smallpercentages, to predict a winner. While the exitpolling results, generally, have proven to befairly accurate, states on the West Coast, wherevoting places close hours after those on the EastCoast, complain that early predictions influencethose who have not yet cast their ballots.
  35. Trust in media &Congress is low…As a result, manyAmericans think it’spointless to vote.
  36. Voter turnout inU.S. elections since1960…•Presidentialelections attractmore voters•More voters tend tofavor Democrats•Americans under 35don’t vote as much asolder
  37. Voter turnout is much higher in France…
  38. Young people don’t follow the news, so they’re uniformed… 18- to 34-year-olds are not reading newspapers as often older generations did They are also not watching TV news as often Some say they get their news from non-news TV showsIs America’s“most trustedjournalist” even They will read news online, buta journalist? don’t want to pay for it
  39. Young people don’t vote, so politicians ignore them…
  40. U.S. youth are facing excessive student debtburdens, grim job prospects and will likely be thefirst generation to have a lower standard of livingthan the previous one.
  41. Meanwhile, older Americans are receivingmore entitlements from the government thanthey paid taxes for – benefits the youngergenerations will likely never receive.
  42. Europe isexperiencingthis samephenomenon…
  43. In France, youth are also less likely to vote…
  44. Speaking of young voters…
  45. Social media• Social networking sites are playing a bigger role in campaign coverage.• Facebook helped get young people (particularly college students) more engaged in the 2008 election by sponsoring some presidential debates and promoting it on their super popular website.• Many citizen journalists broke stories on their blogs that the mainstream media overlooked.
  46. Social media• And then theres YouTube’s impact: There’s an argument to be made that YouTube delivered the 2006 U.S. Senate elections to the Democrats.• Two GOP incumbents, George Allen and Conrad Burns, went down to defeat after they came under the attack of embarrassing YouTube videos.
  47. That said, social media is notSocial media the most important medium in the election. That’s because people who vote in the U.S. tend to be older and they’re not on social networks. Many of the key “swing states” – such as Florida and Pennsylvania – have older populations. Having a million Facebook fans or likes means little if your followers are not engaged (i.e. voting and donating money).
  48. Social media• The social media also presents challenges for journalists.• Facing a hyper-competitive news environment in an era when news travels quickly, many journalists now feel pressured to prioritize speed over accuracy.• When covering election news, especially, it seems riskier for many media outlets to get left behind than to get it wrong.• There have been many instances of misinformation, info taken out of context, etc.
  49. • Do most voters vote based on issues or based on personality?• To what extent should candidates’ personal lives and past be off limits?• Should the press be allowed to report election results before the polls close? Does the Internet make it a moot point?• How can we ensure accuracy in an age where information spreads as fast as a tweet?• What can be done to combat voter apathy among young people – in the U.S. and Europe?