Media bias is alive and well in politics. It is a “term used to describe prejudice in news and media reports, in which it is perceived as an imbalance or unfair presentation of facts or selective reporting of which events or facts are reported. ” Media bias is present in every aspect of American politics, and plays a significant role in influencing voters’ opinions and beliefs. The media frames the information that voters utilize within their decision making process. As a result, many have voiced their concern that the media may be conventionally distorting political opinion.
Media bias has the ability to make voters bias, and hence, bias policy decisions. It is a vicious cycle that can either make or break a candidate’s campaign, as well as their chances of obtaining an office seat. It can make a villain out of a candidate or make him/her a hero. The media affects the publics’ interest in politics by presenting the people with what they want to see and hear. Within a campaign, the media will focus their attention on the issues that they consider to be the most important.
The other issues will be ignored, or placed on the back burner. This goes for candidate coverage as well. The media will focus on the candidates they consider most important, and the others will be ignored. One of the most prominent examples of media bias in politics dates back to the first televised Presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960. It showed just how biased the media was toward public figures that oozed charisma and harbored a strong emotional presence. It tarnished the campaigns of those whose auras were less engaging.
On television, Kennedy appeared to the general public as young, vibrant; full of charisma, and needless to say, “television friendly”. Nixon on the other hand, appeared to the general public as old and uninteresting, not suitable for television. A poll conducted after the televised debate suggested that radio listeners thought Nixon had won, while television viewers thought Kennedy had won, by a landslide. Needless to say, Kennedy emerged as the first President “made for television”. Many political candidates use the power of “image,” projected by the media, to influence viewers.
When running for President, Bill Clinton used the media to his advantage, appearing on talk shows where he played his saxophone. To the public, this made him appear more of a “people person”, more accessible, and more charismatic. Barack Obama did the same thing, appearing on the View, SNL, and several other talk shows. The media loved this fun-loving side of Obama, and from this projected image, so did the American people. Other political candidates have had terrible luck with media bias. Ron Paul is a prime example. The media portrayed Ron Paul as the joke of the 2008 Presidential election.
He received very little coverage. He was “that boring, old guy with the uncommon Libertarian views. ” He did not appeal to the American people, and as a result, was considered “unelectable. ” Media bias is also known to greatly affect women candidates. A recent study showed that men received substantially more press coverage than women. Men had about twice as many stories written about them than women. Furthermore, research showed that stories about female candidates were big on emphasizing their physical appearance and personal lives.
There were approximately three times as many physical descriptions (referencing their clothing style, hair, age, etc. ) as their male competitors in the race. Furthermore, women candidates were portrayed in a stereotypical light, as being more emotional and oftentimes, their professional titles were excluded from stories. In the 2008 presidential election, Obama was far more prominent in the press than his female competitor, Hillary Clinton. Both candidates announced their run for presidency in January of 2007.
Despite the fact that Clinton had higher poll ratings than Obama, the six most influential newspapers in the United States ran twice as many stories mentioning Obama in the headline than Clinton that month. Sarah Palin is another woman candidate/ “victim” of negative media bias. A great deal of the media coverage that Palin has garnered has been negative. The media focused a great deal on her physical appearance and her family life. During her campaign, her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, became pregnant, and the media coldheartedly used that to bash Palin’s parenting skills, bringing personal life into politics.
The media questioned “how can Palin be a good president if she can’t be a good mother? ” Furthermore, the media criticized Palin for not staying home to care for her sick child who had been born with Downs Syndrome. Perhaps it is this brutal media bias towards women that scares them away from the political arena. The media is influential in politics, past, present, and future. For those who do not take the time to educate themselves on matters of politics, they depend on the media to exhibit the news in a readily accessible form.
It becomes easy to grasp how crucial the media is, and what the effects of the news on society will be. Media bias can make or break a political candidate. Positive and frequent media coverage wins elections. Negative and/or minimal media coverage loses elections. Some candidates have learned how to use the media to their advantage, while others have little control, unable to recover from the scars left from negative media bias. Media bias will forever be a part of American politics, and to be in its favor welcomes success.
Courtney from Study Moose
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