Media plays informative role in the election process. Most Americans learn about their opportunities in national elections from newspapers, radio, television and the Internet. Five out of ten Americans claim that television is the main information source on the current events. Television draws a huge audience since it is available to people of all social statuses. Any other media can exceed television impact on public in the United States. According to statistics, typical American family watches TV 7 hours a day (Oates, 2008). In addition, media acquires promotional role in the presidential elections. The main objective of the presidential contenders is to convince the majority to support them. Media is the most efficient means of communication with the electorate.
The 2000 U.S. presidential election is considered to be the most contested one than ever before. Results have been announced one month from election due to numerous recounts of votes. Contrary to the predictions that the Internet can substitute television as a source of information, TV was the most effective means of influencing voters’ views in the 2000 election. The struggle for a position brought presidential contenders to attract public on their side. Television channels presented round-the clock political discussions and news. Both Democrats and Republicans tried to create the positive images of their candidates by means of competing campaigns. Commentators pretended to be neutral, but often took the side of one or another candidate. That is why, CNN claimed to safeguard the neutrality. However, the post-election investigations have proven that the television and press coverage tended to favor Bush (Kellner, 2001).
Analysts claim that the 2004 election campaign was the most heated of all previous campaigns. Billions of dollars have been spent on television advertising to persuade voters to support presidential contenders. However, according to the Pew survey, the Internet became a major source of the information for Americans in 2004 presidential election. More than 20 % of American voters relied on the Internet data. Approximately 40% of voters claimed that they learned about latest news online (Mccombs, 2004). Unsurprisingly, the representatives of this category were the young voters. In other words, the Internet played more influential role than television to the young generation of Americans. Therefore, digital technology allowed presidential contenders to engage in a new level of conversations with their voters in the 21st century (Biagi, 2013).
The Internet has become an inherent part advertising campaign in politics by 2008. Mark McKinnon noted that 2008 election campaign has leveraged the Internet. The presidential contenders have resorted to the Internet and social media to increase the efficiency of their election campaigns. As a result, video-sharing has become the part of online campaigning. YouTube was the major channel for content distribution. Moreover, YouTube-mediated dialogue between candidates and voters led to increased interest in politics. The number of online political information consumers has grown over the years. In 2000, the figure was 20% of all U.S Internet users. It increases from 35% in 2004, to 45% in 2008 (Mckinney & Banwart, 2008).
Parties other than the Democrats or Republicans are usually termed as third parties or minor parties. These parties may split off from the major parties or can be founded from scratch by groups or charismatic leaders. Minor parties have a difficult time competing within the American two-party political system. Nevertheless, third parties have played a critical part in U.S. political life. They have forced the major parties to notice new trends in the thinking of Americans. In addition, impact of third parties expresses in two ways. Minor parties can influence major parties or the result of a particular election. Nevertheless, third parties have been rarely able to significantly affect the outcome of elections. It is not easy for minor parties to compete with the Democrats and Republican. Third parties are not well-known, and they have no enough funds and experience in running campaigns.
Candidates of minor parties can be “spoilers” since they steal votes from the major-party candidates. This had happened only a few times. In other words, the third parties had affected the outcome of elections only several times throughout the course of history. In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt took away votes from the Republican candidate and allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency. George Wallace (1968) and Ross Perot (1992) also stole votes from major parties in the general election. In more recent times, the presidential election of 2000 is a vivid example when third party has altered the outcome. Ralph Nader received approximately 100,000 votes, which would probably have received Al Gore (Biagi, 2013).
In the 21st century media has given an opportunity of conducting political dialog between candidates and voters. The Internet has surpassed the television during the recent years. Until the proliferation of mass media technologies, political candidates had no possibility of direct communication with the general public. Therefore, third parties were unable to run competing campaigns against the major parties. However, technological progress opens up new horizons. New opportunities can result in a threat of third parties entering the elections. For instance, 2000 presidential election is considered to be a case of the third party effect on the final electoral outcome. Nader won a significant percentage of votes from Gore and Bush. This factor led to the spoiled outcome and judicial recount.
- Biagi, S. (2013). Media impact: an introduction to mass media (11th ed.). Stanford: Cengage Learning.
- Kellner, D. (2001). Grand theft 2000: media spectacle and stolen election. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.
- Mccombs, M. (2004). Setting the agenda: the mass media and public opinion. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Mckinney, M, & Banwart, M. (2008). Communication in the 2008 U.S. election: digital natives elect a president. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
- Oates,S. (2008). Introduction to media and politics. London: Sage Publication Ltd.