Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Conclusions from Destination270: The Media

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In the current American political system, three main institutions act as puppet masters who put on a show for the mass public. Using their numerous strategies and available resources, political parties, interest groups and the media each pull the strings of the political elite in their favor. While these three institutions have a similar goal- to garner support in hopes of effecting change and aggregating the concerns of the mass public- the ways in which these institutions do so are entirely unique and vary in their success.

Political parties garner public support via the psychological factors that foster such a strong two party system in the United States. It is through party identification that any, and potentially every American, can acquire a sense of attachment to a group whose social and cultural norms mirror their own. Media, unlike political parties and interest groups, have one major advantage when it comes to linking the mass public to those in government: access. Twenty-four hour news access to any media form, from any location, links the mass public to the political elite unlike ever before. Access to the media, and more importantly the media’s access to the public have increased exponentially since cable news got its start in the eighties. Of course the addition to the Internet has made network nightly news a thing of the past, indefinitely.

Americans hold high expectations for what roles the media should play. It is the job of the media to determine what is important for the mass public to know. Everyday people cannot be in multiple places at one time nor can they keep track of everything taking place around the world. Instead, they rely on the media to shift through all the data and provide the most important and relevant information to them. Additionally, the media is an agenda setter. While bias in the media exists, agenda setting argues that the media doesn’t necessarily tell us what to think, but rather what to think about. It is due to the gatekeeper mentality mentioned earlier that media also fulfils an agenda setting role. These roles are what keep the mass public tuned in to what the media, as a whole, has to say. Furthermore it is the media’s framing that has the ability to alter one’s perspective on those in government and current affairs, or more importantly at this moment those running for election. How the media frames certain issues and how much time the media spends discussing those issues inevitably alters the mass public’s perception of the world’s affairs. As Plato would argue, reality is immaterial when one’s perception of reality is the basis on which one acts.

The point of this very blog is to bring to you, our reader, an array of information, links, studies and polls to compartmentalize the ever so intricate election system.

By simply writing about something on this blog, we are acting as the media, as agenda setters. While our bias remains aloof and, our simple mention of topics, of states and of races increases their significance in the eyes of our readers. We’re just one small contribution to the ever increasing media world.

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