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Social media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the internet has become such an influence of our everyday lives that at the turn of a head it’s changing how we look at things. Sometimes that media is true and other times it is completely blown out of context. A good example of this is our political system and those involved in it. Media has become a weapon, arming politicians with the capability to spread knowledge that they want people to know about themselves and others. On the flip side, media can be used for good, showing civilians the whole hearted actions politics can and are taking for not only our country but others across the world. It all depends on how you receive and use that information.
Someone who is frequently on social media is more likely to be swayed on their political beliefs and activity in politics as a whole. The largest and maybe the most well-known inquiry on social media influence is a study published in the journal Nature, “A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization,” which suggested that messages on users’ Facebook feeds could significantly influence voting patterns. The data collected showed that certain messages shared by friends have a significant chance at altering the course of voting patterns. In these modern times, voters learn about politics and government from a variety of media outlets which mean their voting behavior can also be affected by bias websites and news stations. A report conducted by the Pew Research Center breaks down the amount of news consumption of Americans. Many responded by saying they get their news from television and Facebook but still rely heavily on cable shows and newspapers. The 44% of responders in Pew’s survey responded by saying they get a majority of their news from CNN. Close behind that is FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, and MSNBC which took the five remaining spots. This information is significant because of the whole list, the only conservative news station is FOX while the rest all lean towards liberal beliefs. When watching these stations report over candidates, if unsure, someone could be swayed to vote for another. Therefore, It has been scientifically proven that those who are engaged with the news and social media outlets have a significant probability of being civically and politically swayed.
Through the use of media, campaigns can become more powerful and influential. Many of our great leaders used campaigns that brought us together as Americans rather than splitting them down the middle. For example, Franklin Roosevelt is famous for his “fireside chats,” in which he eased the pain of depression and loss at war by simply talking and connecting with the people of America on a personal level. Later, President Ronald Reagan used his skills in television and film to communicate very effectively with American voters. Now, government officials and candidates for office carefully planned media events, television appearances and speeches around the country. Our most recent candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, both have their own ways of gaining voters and swaying those who are unsure of their political standings. Hillary Clinton used her extensive background in government to make her opponent less attractive. On the other hand, voters rallied behind Trump due to his differences of past politicians. “The two candidates are taking vastly different approaches to what is expected to be one of the most widely watched presidential debates since Carter vs. Reagan in 1980. Their divergent strategies reveal how the candidates and potential voters see the race, their strengths and their opponents’ weaknesses,” stated by Patrick Healy, Amy Chozick and Maggie Haberman in an New York Times article. During debates Hillary took time to meet daily with her debate team, spending months on research and analyzing ways to catch Trump off guard. Meanwhile, Trump prefered to spitball ideas rather than honing them into crisp two minute answers. But as Paul Schwartzman claimed, “It’s not chaos. It’s Trump’s campaign strategy…despite predictions that such searing, divisive rhetoric and the resulting outcry would cripple his campaign, Donald Trump’s insults and controversial proposals have propelled him to the forefront of the 2016 presidential race — and kept him there.” One of Trump’s campaign strategies is the frequent use of twitter, some may find it “unprofessional” but his utilization of social media outlets could be said to be Trump’s version of Roosevelt’s “fireside chats,” bypassing the middleman and addressing the public directly. Throughout political history, the man with the most money will undoubtedly win the election.
He had enough to advertise on the radio and the television, in turn leaving the opponent in the dust. Times have changed. Candidates hold lavish parties, pay for celebrity endorsements, and purchase television time to advertise for their opponents and themselves. The changes to how candidates spend their money and the amount in which they spend has forever been changed by Mr. Donald Trump himself. As of October 9th, Hillary Clinton has raised about $513 million and spent $450 million while Donald raised $225 million and only spent $239 million.
As seen in the graph above, through his frequent use of media outlets Donald Trump was able to spread his message faster, easier, and cheaper without spending half of his counterpart. Undoubtedly money is a necessity for running a successful campaign; it’s hard to win without a sufficient supply of it. “Even doubling campaign spending, according to a study cited by the conventional-wisdom debunkers at Freakonomics, translates into only a 1 percent change in voting results. In close elections, other factors such as candidate quality, campaign tactics or even the weather on Election Day are just as likely to be determinative.” Since many politicians follow traditions, many still believe that the more you spend on a campaign will make you victorious but was proven wrong by Obama during his race for the White House. “In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his supporters outspent team Obama in the aggregate — $1.2 billion versus $1.1 billion. Yet Obama could probably have spent several hundred million dollars less and still won,” said Jonathan Soros of Reuters. So after this election, it’s safe to say that the amount raised, spent, or given does not always guarantee a win.
Negative media is hard to escape during campaign season but as seen in the race between Hillary and Trump, negative media can have the opposite effect. Negative media is meant to shine the light on the politician who is being showered with praise while casting shadows and drowning the opposing running mate with events that could potentially cause him or her to lose supporters. A recent example of negative media would be a report published by Harvard University which says,” press coverage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign became progressively negative as Trump’s lead became greater in the republican primaries – and soared after he had the GOP nominations was just within reach ,” states Byron York of Harvard University.
The graph above is the result of a report from the Shorenstein Center of Media, the two media coverages form an almost perfect “X,” as Trump’s reportage went from 43 percent negative during early Republican primaries to an astounding 61 percent negative soon after he beat out his Republican rivals. “The tone of Trump’s press coverage during the last month of the primaries was negative,” writes scholar Thomas Patterson. “The mostly favorable coverage he had received earlier in the primary season had turned sharply downward. Negative statements about his candidacy outnumbered positive statements by 61 percent to 39 percent. His coverage was more negative than that of any other victorious candidate of either party at any stage of the primaries.” Despite the multiple negative media coverages talking of Donald Trump’s “bad side” or “non-presidential like past“ those statements did not stop Donald from rising to the top of the political chain.
In conclusion, politics has changed greatly over time. From the amount of money spent on campaigning to campaign strategies and now to the different races, religions and sexes of politicians running. The biggest factor in change is the amount of media involved in the political process that alone has changed how the average person views politics in general, voting patterns and the ages of political followers. Media connects the voter and the politician like never before, creating a feeling of “understanding” between the two. Now media is used as a tool, with the ability to make or break a campaign so before we post that carefully thought out post about our hated politician or refuse to show up on voting day, think out who it really affects and influences.
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