Tuned Out Voters? Media Impact on Campaign Learning

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Date Presented:

May 3, 2002


What are the consequences of the rise of mediated or indirect channels linking parties and the electorate in modern and post–modern campaigns? Critics commonly blame the mass media (and particularly the role of television) for many of the supposed ills of representative democracy, from public disenchantment with elected leaders to increasing detachment from party loyalties, lack of awareness of public affairs, and half–empty empty ballot boxes. The argument presented in this study has three core components. Firstly, long–term evidence of trends in American elections over the last fifty years demonstrates that reports of the ill health, or even death, of traditional partisan channels of campaign communication are grossly exaggerated. Secondly evidence from the 2000 Bush–Gore US presidential elections confirms that far from ?blaming the messenger?, the role of exposure to campaign information from parties, newspapers, television news, talk radio, and the Internet has been to strengthen civic engagement in America. Lastly, expanding upon previous work, the study considers the role of popular television entertainment in this process.


Last updated on 06/28/2016