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Mass Media Influence in US Elections

Mass Media in US Elections
Abstract

The United States has a historical problem of racism that greatly influences electoral process. Obama’s victory in 2008 was, however, a turning point in the American politics, as he was the first Black president. After his term expired in 2012, he sought a re-election bid, igniting a hot race between him and Mitt Romney. Media influences campaigns and elections and, thus, the role of media is important. In this case, there was a reduced role of news media and the increased role of social media. News media, however, contributed negatively to the respective rival camps. The research seeks to conduct a library study to establish the role of mass media in the 2012 elections and the points of focus are: increasing the financing, enabling voters to analyze the candidates and their manifesto, data tracking, expansion of membership to political parties, negative campaign, promotion of participatory democratic process, promotion of individual and collective agency, debates and poll projection, as well as negative media coverage. The research focuses not only on the points, but also on the way issues impacted the respective candidates and the way they contributed to their achievements and loss.

Keywords: Obama, Romney, elections, mass media, Americans, candidates, the Democratic Party

Mass Media Influence in US Elections

Background

The Presidential Elections for the United States in 2012 was the 57TH in the country’s history, and it took place on 6TH of November of the same year. The contest was between the current President Barrack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden against Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan. The first pair acted under the umbrella of the Democratic Party, while the latter ran on a Republican Party ticket (Federal Elections Commission, 2012). The two parties engaged in massive campaigns that were based on the U.S. Internal issues and, in particular, the Great Recession and the consequent recovery, as well as creation of employment. The Democrats emerged victorious with 332 votes from the Electoral College, as compared to the Republican’s 206. The latter, however, accepted defeat and no violence was visible in the process; the Democrats victory earned Obama a second term in the office. The poll occurred at the same time, with those of the Senate, States Legislature, as well as gubernatorial office. The elections were marked by massive financing, negative campaigning, and fundraising. The major sources of funds were grass root contributions, political action committee, as well as donations through the online channels and for both parties the funds raised a total of $2 billion (Gillum & Braun, 2012). Mass media had a significant influence in the elections, especially through the solicitation of votes, as well as funds. Unlike 2008, the news media had a minor role, as there was a shift from the trend to the use of social media by the two camps. However, the television stations still played an important role, especially in negative coverage of the two rival camps (Pew Research Center, 2013).

Impacts of Mass Media in the Elections

Financing

The media, especially the internet and the social platforms, have played a crucial role in the Obama’s victory, as it helped to spread the Democratic ideologies that won the hearts of many Americans who donated their funds to facilitate the campaigns. It is said that through the online channels, Obama was able to raise $690 million that was far ahead of what was raised in the previous elections in 2008 (Scherer, 2012). Online channels, such as email, social media and website, raised $504 million. In the same year, the number of well wishers and donors increased, which helped to pool substantial amounts of funds to finance the Democratic Party campaigns. Huge chunks of money raised through the social media made facilitated campaigns for Obama and, thus, gave him a competitive edge over the Republican candidate.

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The Media Turned Voters into Political Analysts

The media availed information about the rival camps to the general public, and the analysis of such information at the personal level had a great impact. For instance, a comment by Mitt Romney about 47% of Americans who do not participate in paying taxes, as well as another remark that touched on women, attracted quick rejoinders from the members of the public. The voters responded to comments, tweets, and Facebook posts. Bloggers also took the opportunity to mock Romney through their wall posts and this made his popularity decline. The mockery, on the other hand, was a blessing to Obama, as this weakened the Republicans voter’s muscle (Dalton-Hoffman, 2013). The media quickly spread the remarks to a wide audience, making it easy for Mitt Romney to lose support.

Data Tracking

Romney and Obama sought the assistance of experts from independent companies to track data in their respective campaign websites. The experts tracked individual’s usage of internet and block advertisements in his/her portfolio and instead post adverts for their client camp. The IT technicians would compose adverts for their client candidate and send them to the internet users. Examples of independent companies hired were the Data Brokers, and the AD Network among others (Cruz, 2012). The Obama’s campaign team had 79 sites for data tracking and these facilitated the spread of the Democratic ideologies, as well as made them appealing for donations. The data tracking strategy worked well for both Romney and Obama, but the latter had a competitive edge through his dominance of the social media, and this facilitated his victory in the polls. Obama’s campaign team was capable of collecting and analyzing data on the large scale, and this guided the team in profiling behaviors to develop a communication-based campaign. For instance, it was possible for the team to identify the most appropriate channel of communication to a given group of people (Rutledge, 2013). The strategy worked well for him, giving a boost to his bid to return to the White House, thus delivering a blow to Romney and his camp.

Expansion of Membership to the Political Parties

The use of mass media gave the U.S. citizens a chance to express their political affiliations and ideologies. Through comments, likes, re-tweeting, and clicking, the users of social media spread the ideologies of their affiliated parties to their online friends. The online generated campaign adverts spread fast across the United States, and this galvanized support for the two parties but through the dominance of social media, the Democratic Party benefited more from the sites, thus facilitating its victory (Blackham, 2012). Through wrestling Romney to the floor in the social media, Obama earned himself popularity that facilitated his return to the White House (Dalton-Hoffman, 2013). The intensive social media campaign popularized Obama among American citizens, thus increasing the number of his votes to 4.4 million from 3.95 million in the previous elections (Scherer, 2012).

Negative Campaigns

Mass media provided a platform for the rival political camps to wrestle each other through negative publicity. The Democrats and the Republicans launched attacks against each other by capitalizing the flaws/weaknesses of the opponent to gain an advantage. In 2012, about 80% of Obama’s campaign was anti-Republican, while Romney equally engaged the Democrats in 84% of his campaigns (Hunt, 2012). A political advocacy group, known as American for Prosperity, engaged in television campaigns to criticize Obama by capitalizing on his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009, as well as a loan he gave to the Solyndra solar manufacturing company. This was the biggest onslaught against the Democratic Party (Lacey, 2011), and it gave the Democrats a rough time, as they had to engage in massive campaigns to counter the accusations. However, Obama remained firm, and his campaign team was capable of remaining resilient, despite such attacks and this was proven by his landslide victory.

Promotion of Participatory Democracy through the Social Media

The use of Facebook, tweeter, and other online channels provided a peer-to-peer discussion about political affairs at the public level. The discourse between friends, family members, workmates and club members greatly influenced political decisions through the persuasion of people by their friends that they trust the most. In a survey conducted after the elections, 30% users of online communication confessed that families, friends and online adverts convinced them to vote, and 20% also persuaded their friends (Rutledge, 2013). This observation partially accounts for the increased Democratic votes from 3.95 million in 2008 to 4.4 million in 2012 (Scherer, 2012), thus rising the party to victory, although one cannot overlook the role of dynamics of demography. It is also wise to consider the role of social media in the achievements of Romney, but the domination of platform by the Democratic Party explains why Obama had a competitive edge over his rival.

The Social Media Promoted Individual Agency

The increased access and the use of social media was an eye opener to American people that they have the capability to change the U.S. political arena. The realization was a sense of empowerment to the ordinary citizens and Obama’s campaign team utilized this to galvanize support, as well as the collection of funds through the social media (Rutledge, 2013). Additionally, the social media created a sense of individual, as well as collective empowerment that inspired Americans to utilize their instruments of power through the funding of campaigns, as well as voting. The empowerment worked well for both candidates, but Obama’s dominance led to his victory, while Romney lost the battle.

The Debates and Poll Results Projection

Television stations, such as the CNN, and the WHDH-TV, among others, aired presidential campaigns; debates and poll result in projections, showing the likely electoral outcome. The aired debates enabled the television viewers to judge the manifesto for both candidates, and this influenced their choice of party affiliation, but the overall advantage was in Obama’s camp because he won the contest. The poll results also guided and influenced the campaign strategies for the two camps, respectively, by showing them the areas they need to concentrate more on to increase their popularity. For instance, Romney had a competitive edge in the New Hampshire, as compared to Obama (Suffolk University, 2011). The two candidates have spent about $2.9 billion to place adverts on television to attract new followers, and consolidate their support (Pew Research Center, 2013). By depicting the popularity of the respective candidates in various regions, the poll projections guided the decisions of respective campaign teams, either to intensify campaigns in the areas of low popularity to increase their support or to consolidate the power in areas of high popularity.

The Negative Media Coverage

The news media, to a large extent, gave Obama and Romney negative coverage, as compared to the favorite news. On the one hand, for Obama, 19% of the stories, aired on television, were in his favor, while 30% were detrimental to his re-election bid. Romney, on the other hand, had 15% of favorable stories, while 38% were undesirable. In September of 2012, Obama had an advantage in the media due to the negative coverage of Romney. For instance, Romney was reprimanded for his remarks about Libya, as well as speaking ill of the 47% of American population. However, the trend was not a pure blessing to either of the contestants, as it never kept constant but it kept tearing into the two parties in turns and thus each candidate would benefit at one time and lose the other (Pew Research Center, 2012). The negative coverage defamed or exposed the negative sides of each of the aspirants in the eyes of general public, thus each of them had to intensify campaigns to counter the accusations, as well as winning people’s sympathy. As a result, the battle for popularity between the two camps intensified, thus giving each of them a rough time, but Obama’s efforts were rewarded with a victory, while Romney lost the battle.

Conclusion

The United States elections 2012 was a hot contest race between Obama and Romney, and it was a test for the former as to whether people of the United States had confidence in him, since it was a reelection bid. However, Obama was not disappointed because he managed to win the race. The media greatly influenced the campaign strategies, as well as the outcomes of the polls, but there was a reduced role of news media and increased role of social media. The media impacted on the polls and campaigns through increasing the financing, enabling voters to analyze the candidates and their manifesto, data tracking, expansion of membership to political parties, negative campaign, promotion of participatory democratic process, promotion of individual and collective agency, debates and poll projection, as well as negative media coverage. Lastly, Romney’s camp conceded defeat, thus making the electoral process a peaceful one.