Free Sample Essay On Mass Media Influence on Politics


Mass media has been gradually advancing. While radio’s impact on individual and societal thinking was significant, the advent of television would be even greater.  Television would challenge long-established belief systems, traditions and societal norms by bringing live video, photos and dialogue directly into the home. In 1950 approximately 9% of Americans possessed televisions (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.). In the 1960s, the total population of Americans with televisions became more than 90%. By 1963 majority of Americans depend on using television instead of newspapers as their main source of information. When it reached 1964, the commercial campaign Johnson was meant to attack Barry Goldwater to make him seem dangerous and probable to result in America’s nuclear destruction (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.). Despite, Barry not being mentioned directly, the Republicans made a complaint against Barry. However, the campaign was withdrawn after being aired once. United States households had now seen their first view of a political attack ad. The airing of the Vietnam War adopted a new implication from 1965 through 1973 (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.).  The media were reporting directly from the war which challenged the government’s credibility for truth. The media coverage of the Vietnam War led to the development of a counterculture in America. Therefore, this paper reports the progress of mass media from 1960 while comparing the mass media of the 1960s to those of today (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.). This paper also gives a report on the impact of mass media on politics.

Major Milestones in Mass Media up to Date

The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s brought dramatic changes with the spread of cable television and the Internet. In 1989, a computer developer from Switzerland referred to as Tim Berners-Lee implemented the internet, World Wide Web (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.).  The Internet literally was no longer just a means for sending files though it was meant for searching for information that anybody on the Internet can access. The Internet and its capabilities continue to grow as technology is improved. The 21st century marked the birth of what is now known as Social Media (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.).  By 2000, the Internet was everywhere and around 100 million people had internet access. Chat rooms became a common forum for people to make friends and hold discussions about endless topics.  MySpace, the original social media profile website, inspired the development of Facebook, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Instagram and many more (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.).  In 2007, Apple released the iPhone marking the era when people had access to the internet in the form of a handheld, mobile device. Soon, businesses were reaching potential customers via social media, and political candidates realized they could reach massive numbers of supporters and recruit new followers quickly.

1960: The Nixon/Kennedy Campaign

The 1960 presidential election turn out to be a critical time in American history. Internationally the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the emergence of Fidel Castro’s regime within Cuba were hot topics (Url, n.d.).  Domestically, the issue of civil rights and desegregation had separated the nation.  Americans were looking for a strong leader to guide the country through these crises.  On September 26, 1960, candidates running for the presidency, Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy faced off in America’s aired presidential debate for the first time. Nixon was the sitting vice-president and was viewed as a mature and experienced lawmaker (Url, n.d.).  Kennedy, however, was a relatively young and unknown senator from Massachusetts.  Television, still a relatively new medium in American homes, changed the public opinion toward Kennedy.  He exuded poise and comfort on television and showed a presence of health.  Nixon was recovering the flue and looked pale and sickly. While most radio listeners called Nixon the winner, the 70 million television viewers listed Kennedy as the winner by a broad margin.

Americans turned out in record numbers to vote in the 1960 presidential election.  As projected, the election was tight as Kennedy won with 49.7% votes as compared to Nixon’s 49.5% (Url, n.d.).  Voter polls following the election noted that more than 50% of voters stated the televised debates influenced their decision on who to vote for.  In fact, 6% stated the debates alone decided their vote for Kennedy (Url, n.d.). In his memoir, Six Crises, two years after the debate, Nixon said he ought to have remembered a simple picture speaks louder than a thousand words.

1992: The Bush/Clinton/Perot Campaign

Media started extending significantly in 1990.  Greater than half of homes in America possessed cable televisions, newspapers were expanding to a national reach, and the internet brought on computer-aided reporting and the use of email (Url, n.d.). Both Bush and Clinton made use of computer-based communications in their campaigns and this type of information sharing was seen as an important step toward empowering the voters.  The Clinton campaign went so far as to form the “Clinton/Gore ’92 E-Mail Team” responsible for sending documents and taking points (Url, n.d.). Overall, this method of communication with the constituents was well received. Perot, however, did not use online campaigning or communications even though he owned a number of businesses that specialized in computer service.

2012: The Obama/Romney Campaign

The use of the internet to win a presidential election is most dominant in the 2012 Obama/Romney campaign.  Pew Research Center produced a study of how the Obama/Romney campaign used digital media to deliver his speech to his voters directly and as well get feedback from them (Rosenstiel & Mitchell, n.d.). The results indicated that the campaign displayed almost four times content more than Romney’s campaign was extremely active more than other platforms. Across all social, the Pew Report documented 614 posts by the Obama campaign compared to 168 by Romney (Rosenstiel & Mitchell, n.d.).  That gap was significantly wide on Twitter, with Romney’s campaign averaging a single tweet on a daily basis versus twenty-nine in Obama’s campaign.

Obama also created more YouTube videos and several blog posts compared to Romney.  Additionally, Obama ventured into a new space with his website.  Rather than providing a link to a YouTube video, the Obama campaign embedded it on its website (Rosenstiel & Mitchell, n.d.).  This kept the supporter on the website and restricted what videos that supporter may see.  Moreover, the Obama website created a feeling of inclusion with over 18 different opportunities for constituents to join working groups. The Pew Research Center Report went so far as to say Obama’s victory in 2012 was a result, in part, of his digital presence (Url, n.d.).  

Media Impacts on These Campaigns

All presidential campaigns are impacted one way or another by their use of available mass media including newspapers, radio and television.  The separating factor that led the winners to victory was their use of the new and emerging mediums of the day. In 1960, Kennedy emerged as a winner because of his eloquence and composure on television.  Admittedly, voters acknowledged changing party affiliations to vote for him (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.). In 1992, Clinton emerged the victor in part due to his campaign’s ability to connect with voters.  His use of email socialized his talking points and kept them relevant for electors.

Obama ran a compelling and groundbreaking internet campaign using all of the available platforms at the time.  He was also the first presidential candidate to announce his run for presidency via web video (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.).  Obama also used his excellent oratory skills and gained the confidence of voters through his use of digital platforms. While sharing similar characteristics, there are some differences between social media and mass media.  For starters, traditional mass media is comprised of printed materials like newspapers, magazines and books and non-printed materials like television, radio and film.  Typically, mass media is passive and based on a distribution of information to large groups of people.

Social Media refers to Internet-based communications, typically where a user creates a profile and can participate in online forums and discussions.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,

YouTube and Instagram are some of the more common social media platforms.  Social media makes it easy for people to communicate one-to-one, many-to-one and many-to-many, depending on the message and preference of disseminating that message (Url, n.d.). Similarly, both mass media and social media find ways to share information between people.  In contrast, however, mass media is typically message-driven and social media is designed to create interaction or conversation.

Media Influence

Media serves an essential role in society.  Whether it’s for entertainment, education, information sharing, or questioning the government, businesses and educational institutions, media serves the public, however not always in good form (“Milestones in Media and Politics,” n.d.).  Opinions are often misinterpreted as fact, or in some cases, opinions are not respected as an opinion and go far beyond debate.  Media can also act as an agent of socialization and enforcer of social norms. By the turn of the century, children saw 20,000 ads on television (Rosenstiel & Mitchell, n.d.).  That does not include radio or newspaper advertisements and billboards. It is not entirely clear what kind of an impact this will have on the next generation.

Media and advertising can encourage an individual to value themselves based on the vehicle they drive, where they work or how much money they make.  Social networks can influence the way people co-exist and impact the way someone approaches to conflict.  People of all ages are impressionable, especially young people who are trying to fit in and will work to mimic their perceived public role models like athletes, actors, models, etc (Rosenstiel & Mitchell, n.d.).  Media can significantly influence divisions like race, gender or social class.  It can exacerbate negative behaviour very easily manipulated by carefully crafted posts and messages to stimulate responses to benefit one candidate or party. Unfortunately, this information is often accepted as fact without any follow-up or verification.

Media Changes Impacting Politics

In every campaign, some form of media was used in an attempt to shape the opinion of the voters.  Advertisements in printed materials, radio and television are still used today and combined with social media movements.  More than ever, social media allows voters to share their voices, their concerns, and their ideas.  In 2012, the Obama and Romney campaigns spent millions of dollars trying to influence young people through social media campaigns (Rosenstiel & Mitchell, n.d.).


In essence, the risk of such a connection method of campaigning is the distribution, and potentially viral sharing, of false information.  There is no fact sourcing before the information is published or shared on social media.  Wrong information can be shared just as easily as the right information and can certainly sway voters.  Instead of being informed and educated, society is being manipulated by carefully crafted posts and messages to stimulate responses to benefit one candidate or party. Unfortunately, this information is often accepted as fact without any follow-up or verification.