Mass media can be defined as venues for messages that are created for consumption by large numbers of people. The media has a remarkable impact on politics. However, the impact may not always be good. If used against politicians it can easily, but not always, destroy his or her career, but if the media likes that one politician it can take his or her career to new heights. Similarly, the media affects the perception of not only politicians but events, responses to events, elections, and referendum campaigns.
The media has a remarkable impact on politics. However, the impact may not always be good. If used against politicians it can easily, but not always, destroy his or her career, but if the media likes that one politician it can take his or her career to new heights. Similarly, the media affects the perception of not only politicians but events, responses to events, elections, and referendum campaigns.
The changing and evolving nature of the media
More traditional avenues such as the printed press have seen a significant decline in readership in recent years, particularly readership amongst young people. Newspapers still have plenty of influence, for example ‘setting the agenda’ for that day’s news. However, new forms of communication such as social media have become much more important. It is argued that young people (and many ‘non-young’ people) now primarily consume their political news through mediums such as Facebook and Twitter. This has led to concern over the numbers of ‘fake news’ stories appearing in user’s newsfeeds- stories that masquerade as truth but are actually completely fabricated. It has been argued that this can (and perhaps has) had an effect on, for example, voter choices in elections.
Media bias and persuasion
Terrestrial broadcasters are expected to maintain impartiality and balance in political broadcasting, however, newspapers and internet websites are under no such obligation. Most national newspapers, except The Guardian, The Independent__, __The i _and _the Mirror, generally support the Conservatives. Most newspaper readers, therefore, read Conservative newspapers, even if they buy them initially for non-political purposes. The impact of this may be that people have their political views shaped almost unknowingly. During election campaigns, newspapers often openly endorse particular political parties, and spend time supporting and praising that party whilst attacking the opposition. A feature of the __2015 __election was the relentlessly negative portrayal of Labour’s Ed Miliband in the right-wing press. Miliband’s father was attacked as an ‘enemy of Britain’, supposedly due to his left-wing views, and Miliband’s personal presentational style was also heavily criticised. The Sun newspaper has in the past claimed responsibility for election victories by certain parties. On the day of the __1992 __general election, it printed a front page with the head of Labour leader Neil Kinnock superimposed onto a light bulb, with the headline ‘if Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights’. Following the surprise Conservative victory, the paper then led with the headline ‘it was the Sun wot won it’. However, the amount of influence the media has is up for debate. It could be the case that newspaper readers choose a particular paper due to its support, rather than the influence working in the opposite direction.
Effect of media on politics
The media is sometimes accused of adding to the cynicism surrounding UK politics and politicians. The tabloid press, for example, focuses more on political scandals and allegations of incompetence and failure (perhaps due to commercial pressures). As a result of the increasing role of the media, there is now an emphasis amongst politicians in dealing with this, which in itself may have contributed to the negative perception of politics and politicians. Politicians now receive extensive media training, which has led to the impression of them avoiding answering questions properly, delivering meaningless soundbites, only appearing at carefully stage-managed events, and generally appearing less like ‘real people’. The emphasis on ‘spin’- the biased or distorted presentation of information in the media- also creates the impression that politicians are less trustworthy.
What influence does the media actually have?
The media can be argued to have a big impact on people’s political views and choices:
- Various forms of media, especially newspapers, portray parties and politicians in particular ways, which affects what people think about them
- Social media exposes people to many views and opinions which may affect their own beliefs
- The way politicians try and present themselves to the media can affect what people think of them
On the other hand, it could be argued that the media simply reinforces people’s existing choices:
- People tend to consume and believe newspapers which support their existing point of view
- People recognise bias more in media that does not support their existing view- media which reflects their view tends to be seen as ‘the truth’ or ‘common sense’
- On social media, people are friends with, and follow, people and journalists who are in line with their own beliefs, creating a false impression that most people are in agreement with a particular view (the ‘echo chamber’ idea)
- Newspapers and media outlets cannot be too out-of-step with public opinion, as this may affect sales/consumption
- Evaluate the extent to which various types of media simply reinforce political choice, rather than altering it. (30 marks)Make sure you refer to two types of media, include three arguments for and against.
- Your answer should include: Political Choice / Class / Gender / Age / Ethnicity / Values / Dealignment / Social Media / Circulation
Explanation: Good stuff. You ramp it up by mentioning political choice, impact of class/gender/age/ethnicity, values, dealignment, social media and newspaper circulations.
These are used to gauge public opinion, for example on a particular issue or on voting intention. In recent years, the reputation of opinion polls for accuracy and reliability has taken a hit. In the lead-up to the __2015 __election, polls consistently showed the Conservatives and Labour as very closely matched, leading to a belief in the likelihood of a Hung Parliament, and speculation as to which parties may go into coalition together. The result actually was an overall majority for the Conservative Party. It is thought that opinion polls tend to underestimate support for the Conservatives (the ‘shy Tory’ effect), and in __2015 __did not adequately consider the likelihood of voting at all. Nevertheless, opinion polls are important, as they give a sense of not only how popular a party is but also its leader and particular policies. Opinion polls may, therefore, lead to a change in policy direction, or even a change in party leadership.