‘Nowadays, It’s Neither Politicians nor Voters Who Decide Elections, It’s the Media.’ Discuss

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‘Nowadays, it’s neither politicians nor voters who decide elections, it’s the media.’ Discuss

In modern democracy the issue of who decides elections is one that is particularly important to investigate due to the idea that in a perfect democracy, the majority of power should lie with the electorate, as by definition democracy means the rule of the people. Whilst much debate about the relationship between the media and democracy focuses on the role of different types of media, and the media as a platform, the focus of this essay shall be to analyze the electoral influence of the independent mass media. In order to be able to decide elections, the media should be able to manipulate both voters and politicians as they are generally held to
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presidential campaign of 1992, the media and candidates focused on similar issues, but there was minimal proof that the media were responsible for this agenda convergence. Therefore, to assert that the media consistently decides elections by dictating which issues are salient is misplaced. This study shows that even when public and media agendas align, it is not as simple as stating that this is due to the fact that media are dictating the agenda. This then undermines conclusions reached from McCombs and Shaw (1972) in their Chapel Hill research whereby the strong correlation between public and media agenda was concluded to be a case of the media directing public opinion.
However, just because the media does not always lead public opinion is not to say that the role of the media in agenda setting is not important. It is in fact the disproportionate influence that politicians ascribe to the media which gives the media some power in being able to influence elections. As Walgrave & Van Aelst state (p.100, 2006), political actors follow media cues in the election period due to the fact that ‘media coverage is associated with public opinion’. In this sense it is irrelevant that the views of the media and the public are not the same, so long as political actors consider the media to be a gauge of the public mood. This is reinforced by Schudson (1996), who argues that the power of the mass media lies not in manipulating the general public, but in the belief from
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