ELECTIONS IN THE TELEVISION AGE – GRABER
A) The state of research
The role of media varies: depending upon the particular office being contested
o Presidential elections have been extensively studied but we know little about the
media’s role in congressional elections and their impact on local, judicial or school
o The impact of media will vary depending on the type of coverage and the interests
According to the unseeing eye study (R. McClure & T. Peterson)
o Presidential ads are more effective then news stories.
1972 presidential elections: more than 65mn of TV time used for
advertising Nixon’s campaign vs. 15minutes news coverage on Nixon.
o Although people learned about the campaign issues, the commercials apparently
failed to influence viewers’ evaluations of the candidates. Ultimate voting choice
Ł Provided that the McClurePatterson findings remain firm after further studies in other
o TV commercials add substantial chunks of information to the flow of news about
campaign issues, however they deal primarily with the same issues than covered in
newspapers and television.
o Even though commercials present strong images of candidates, those images fail
to penetrate most viewers’ protective shielding of preconceived political ideas and
B) The consequences of media politics
Era of “new politics”: TV in every home, computers ▯access to technology is different,
1) Decline in party influence
Decline of political parties’ influence, since the transition to the electronic age,
candidate’s personality has become prime consideration; the order is reversed (political
parties used to play a key role in presidential elections).
o Therefore voters base their decision on the candidate’s personality = the media
becomes more important as they are chief in source of information about these
o As a result, party affiliation is in decline, candidates can offered to take distance
from the party’s influence as they themselves are a more important factor in the
o However party affiliation remains very important at the state/local level when the
voters know little about the candidate and TV coverage isn’t as important as in
presidential election’s case.
When party choice criteria are lacking and personal experience or advice from opinion
leaders is unavailable people turn to the media for guidance, either positively or
2) Media as kingmakers Power of media personnel to influence the selection of candidates and issues
o They are responsible for the candidates’ “casting” = the mainly cover front
runners to make their task easier.
The media’s role as kingmaker or destroyer of the dreams of wouldbe kings is often
exercised over a long span of time. Image making for the 1976 and 1980 elections began
on a massive scale more than a year before the first primary.
Media giants (ex: publisher Henry Luce) are often able to use their personal influence and
the power of media under their control to support nominations for their favourite.
Publicity for even trivial incidents may nip presidential aspirations (ex: Stories about
senator Edmund Muskie’s tears over an insult to his wife etc.)
Media images are vastly important during the general election campaign.
o Ex: KenneyNixon 1960 debate changed voters mind about Kennedy being to
young to be elected. = impact of television
o Politicians then shied away from TV debates for 16 years (until 1976).
3) TelevisionAge recruits
Importance of being telegenic. TV changed the deal, candidates need to be comfortable in
front of the camera, to perform well and be impressive.
o People who are adept of performing in public have a consistent advantage (ex:
Ronal Reagan, exastronaut John Glenn)
o Candidates who aren’t comfortable in front of the camera now spend time
practicing with television professionals.
Media time and production cost can take 30 to 50% of the candidate’s budget.
4) Campaigning for the Media
Mass media coverage has become the pivot around which revolves the campaign.
o Ł Campaigns are tailored to suit media coverage opportunities
Incumbents have a distinct advantage over their challengers in this effort to attract
coverage, as journalists need exciting stories preferably from candidates proven
newsworthy. The official status of incumbent makes them intrinsically attractive = they
get more media coverage (front runners too)
Campaign managers arrange newsworthy events to familiarize potential voters with their
candidates’ best aspects.
Language of picture stereotype has developed throughout the years (posing with black
workers, college students, old people = more affinity with these groups, voters relate).
Most major campaign events are now staged as prime time live coverage TV spectacle.
Structuring and staging campaign activities to make them newsworthy ha