Voters will in most cases rely on the media to provide information for each presidential aspirant running for office, leading up to the election. The reason for this is that the voter doesn’t know the candidates personally thus the media steps in to fill the gap. Information that a voter needs to make an informed decision is acquired from newspapers, TV, the internet or radio. However, it is important to note that the media is more instrumental in dictating issues that voters should consider as important, through creating attention, but are less effective in shaping opinions (McCombs, 2004).
When we review the just concluded presidential campaign and elections, the media has been a major contributor and the agenda setting function has been at work. The media provide information about what the candidates intend to do, while they tackle important issues in the campaign. Coverage via media shows voters the candidate’s objective and their platform. Obama ran his campaign on the platform of forward.
As one explores the agenda there are several things that must be explained. The effect of mass media on molding the public’s view of social reality is known as the agenda –setting function of mass media. During a candidate’s political campaign, the media are keen on presenting all the negative aspects of the candidate and his campaign. The media try’s to weaken the platform on which a candidate is basing his campaign on. The mass media are to blame for how the voters perceive a candidate. The agenda function comes to light when the public’s mind has been swayed (McCombs, 2004). There are several issues highlighted by the media and the candidates which form the substance of the campaign. These issues way heavily on the way the public views the candidate and politically when the media set the agenda they are in control of every aspect of the presentation of the candidate. The media drains truth and substance from a candidate’s campaign making him or her less favored in the eyes of the public through opinion polls, political advertisements, and framing issues. This will influence the outcome of the election in a dramatic way.
The 2012 elections were characterized by media bias in favor of the current president, with the media providing undeserved positive coverage and unfairly critical of Republican candidates. This was a blow to his rival Mitt Romney’s campaign. The Media Research Center wrote an open letter in which it stated that biased media houses were rigging the election and taking sides so as to predetermine the outcome of the elections. The media were blamed for advancing the “leftist” agenda, vilifying the conservative movement and distorting the truth. Newspapers were seen to put greater emphasis on stories that may prove to be harmful to Romney’s campaign than Obama’s reelection efforts despite his shortcomings in his first term as President.
Obama’s campaign had a number of issues he promised to tackle once reelected they included investing in education, improving infrastructure such as having high speed rail, immigration, killing Osama bin Laden, ending don’t ask don’t tell, more supreme court picks, energy, financial reform and health care reform which was his crowning accomplishment. The health care reform agenda greatly won over his voters as assurance of free treatment ensured great saving for citizens. His reelection meant that the reforms would be implemented thus it enable him gather enough votes to retain presidency for the second term.
Mitt Romney talked about healthcare, budget/taxes/deficit, immigration, foreign policy, energy/environment, and same sex marriage which was a contentious issue. Lack of supporting gay marriages may have cost Mitt Romney the election.
Great emphasis is placed on independent voters in swing states as they are the deciding swing vote in every close election. Independent voters don’t associate themselves with a given political party. Their support for a presidential candidate derives its basis from the issues he presents and not from a given political ideology.
During the 2012 elections, Obama had relative weakness among independent voters. This meant that he would need a lot more support from staunch democratic supporters so as to fill the gap. His challenger Mitt Romney had a fairly large number of supporters in these states hence this gave him enough confidence for a potential win.
The media agenda-setting is clearly seen at play during the political season, when elections are taking place. This goes to show how mass media is a powerful tool in fostering political ideas in a bid to influence the outcome of elections.
McCombs, M. (2004). Setting the Agenda: The Mass Media and Public Opinion. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.