Ever since mass media came into fruition, political
elections and the political climate have been impacted, in both positive and
negative ways. The hypodermic needle theory, for example, explains that
information is quite literally “shot” into the minds of audiences through the
media, and this idea was widely believed during the 1920’s. Media has evolved,
though, and this has led to new theories on how it can alter what people believe.
When media was comprised of newspapers and the radio, it was very easy for
published stories to be manipulated and controlled by political officials, so
the public could quite readily be led to believe one opinion over another.
However, mass media has evolved over the past century to the point where it no
longer has a monopoly from any one mode of transmission- instead, “the media”
is a very loose term used to describe social media, newspapers, magazines,
television, the radio, news sites, and many more. And, because of its
wide-ranging capabilities, “the media” is a giant that allows people from all
social standings and all backgrounds to voice their opinions to whomever will
listen, read, or watch. All people have the ability to absorb any information,
just as all people have the ability to emit any information, and this has
drastically changed the interaction of American politics and the media. In recent years, the increase in speed of the media has
greatly impacted politics, and this change has enabled a confirmation bias
among voters, as well as allowing both the public and elected officials to make
much more informed decisions on behalf of the country. As mass media has
evolved in American society, its impact on politics has become increasingly
beneficial, which is portrayed by the facilitated relationship between the
public and elected officials.

media has been gradually turning toward younger generations ever since its
introduction into American Society. Social
media is targeted toward younger generations because these are the people who
grew up with it, so they are able to use it in a beneficial way. Moreover, in
recent years, social media has become a platform for politicians to campaign,
gain support for their ideas, and take notice of what citizens want from a
political candidate. The use of social media to connect to voters and American
citizens was first introduced during the 2008 presidential election between
Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama is known as the “Facebook president”
because at the time of his election, the only major social networking site was
Facebook, and Obama was the first to introduce it to the world of politics. The
site was utilized to rally to voters and even to raise funds for his campaign,
but its most significant contribution was its allowance of a presidential
candidate to maintain a relationship with, and understand the minds of, potential
supporters. After winning the election, Obama delved even more deeply into
social networking sites, forming profiles on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and
more, because it was the connection to citizens that brought him the
presidency, so it was a connection to citizens that would bring change to the
country. Throughout his two terms, Obama maintained his online presence and
brought American citizens, specifically young people, even closer to the
decision-making aspect of the presidency. In broad terms, Barack Obama’s
entrance into the world of social networking allowed young citizens to become
much more interested in politics, because they began to realize that they could
have a lasting impact on their country simply through voicing their opinions on
social media. This newfound involvement for young people would continue beyond
the presidency of Barack Obama, and it would later change the way that the
president interacts with citizens and the country. Social media has reached
beyond simply allowing a presidential candidate to interact with voters, and it
has gradually become a driving force behind the outcomes in political

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            Social media, in comparison to serious news websites, allow
people to control what type of news appears on their feed, and it allows them
to receive a constant influx of that news. On social networking sites, people
systematically fill their feed with news that supports their own opinions and
beliefs. Though this is true in real life as well, the addition of social media
strengthens the confirmation bias in interacting with friends and
acquaintances. The links to news articles that people click on are rarely
contradictory to their previous opinions, so people are commonly led to believe
that these are the facts. This confirmation bias plays an important role for
voters, because they become so adamant about their candidate’s ability to win
that they don’t even consider an alternative outcome, even if it may be a
better choice. Social media is the perfect platform for politics because of its
ability to gain information on a demographic and target certain articles toward
certain groups of people. Social networking sites gather details about a person
from the pages that they follow, their likes, and their posts, and the sites
use this information to find articles that will appeal to that person in
particular. Voters are surrounded by material that they are already inclined to
agree with because of the freedom that comes with social media, and this adds
to a confirmation bias. The internet gathers information about the opinions of
people, and this information may not always be entirely fact-based. 

An important part of social media that has begun to control
and guide elections is the speed and manner in which polls are conducted.
Though polls have been used in American politics since the 1950’s, social media
has allowed them to become much more widespread, and while increasing the
number of poll results can be very useful in predicting who will win a
presidency, it can also lead to very misleading numbers. Contradictory polls
can sometimes be found on the exact same day, which leads to a question of
whether or not they are truly factual, or if sometimes they may be flawed. And,
if a poll is flawed, voters can be greatly impacted because of the
self-fulfilling prophecy that comes along with predictions for an election. For
example, if a voter believes a candidate is going to lose because of a
falsified poll, they may even opt out of voting, simply because they believe
the candidate will lose anyway. Social media has begun to take over politics
and political elections because of its allowance of people to become more
involved in an election. Aside from social media, though, all internet-based
media in recent years has strengthened its ability to guide elections and the
decisions made in politics.

            Though news media has become almost strictly internet-based
in recent years, the role of media in politics has always been evolving. The
introduction of new forms of news media always have lasting effects on
politics- take, for example, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” over the
radio during the Great Depression, which were used to instill hope into the
minds of American citizens. Though radio had never been used in politics in
such an impactful way, Roosevelt was able to pave the way for future presidents
to use the medium as well. And, in recent years, the internet has become the
newest form of news media. Just as forms of media have changed over time, the
more general impact of the media has also changed, creating a new environment
for politics and news. It was first understood that media (newspapers,
magazines, radio, and more) had the ability to provide information to
“receivers,” or an audience, and that information would be wholly and readily
accepted. This idea is explained by the hypodermic needle theory, first
introduced in the 1920s by Walter Lippmann. However, as media evolved and the
understanding of it expanded, people began to theorize that audiences are relatively
active in their consumption of media, and perhaps the effects of media and
propaganda on a person’s opinions are minimal. This idea gave more credit to
the previous knowledge of audiences, because it was believed that if a person
was aware that a media source was trying to convince them of something, they
would consider the factual evidence before forming an opinion. The minimal
effects theory was introduced between the 1940s and 1960s, and it brought about
the idea that only politically active people pay close attention to the news
coverage of politics, which was largely contradictory to the hypodermic needle
theory and all that it entailed. One of the more recent theories of media and
its effects on audiences, though, explains that media presents a sort of
“perceived reality” for an audience. Television, as theorized, can transform a
diverse, heterogeneous population into a group of people that all view, and
therefore believe in, the same general principles. This cultivation theory was
introduced in the 1970s by G. Gerbner, who stated that no one person or group
of people “can maintain an independent integrity” in a world with television
and other forms of media. As psychologists have transformed their means of
considering media’s impact on society and politics, journalists have
transformed their means of getting information to an audience through, in
recent years, internet-based news.

            News media and its tendency to be almost exclusively internet-based
has expanded its ability to transform how people consider politics. In contrast
with past mediums for media, the integration of the internet has begun to
change how news is presented to an audience. For example, the coverage from
media has evolved more so into an analysis of events than a reporting of
events. Whereas in the past, sound bites from presidential debates, speeches,
and interviews were usually used to illustrate a fact presented in an article,
sound bites are now much shorter to be used to alter what was truly said by the
candidate. With these shorter sound bites, a journalist may frame an article to
analyze what was intended in a speech, rather than summarizing what was truly
stated. This movement from reporting to analysis, though it can be considered
harmful, has allowed broad audiences to consider points of view that may not
align with their own, and it has therefore expanded general knowledge to
include information beyond just opinions. Moreover, the presidential election
of 1992 created a phenomenon known informally as the “bubble,” in which media
content was controlled by George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, through limiting
photo opportunities and interviews to rallies and campaign venues. This control
forced articles to become more like advertising than journalism, which is why
all campaigns afterward attempted to focus more on a presentation of all
information, whether the candidates agreed with it or not. Since this election,
the increase in use of the internet has prevented a control by candidates,
because the American public has almost total freedom in expressing opinions and
consuming information. Internet-based news media allows for people to consider
facts and opinions beyond their own and beyond those of the presidential candidates,
because the internet moves too quickly for any one person or group of people to
retain control of its contents.

evolution of mass media has greatly altered how America deals with politics and
political campaigns because the internet allows for a whole world of
information in an instant, for both political officials and citizens, in a way
that no other form of media ever has. This availability of knowledge allows for
governmental officials to cater to the needs of the public, and it allows the public
to decide who will govern the country. While the impact of a mass amount of
information may lead to a confirmation bias and a falsified sense of complete
knowledge among many people, it can also allow for a deeper and more beneficial
relationship between the American public and the government, and this
relationship has been made possible because of the integration of
internet-based media into society. 

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