How Do the Media Affect the Election Process?

Media Alert!

October 2022

BLOG #36

Sue Summers

http://www.MediaSavvyKids.org

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”  Romans 12: 2 (The Message)

How Do the Media Affect the Election Process?

It’s election season and campaign ads are dominating the TV viewers’ experience. Persuasive commercials promote local and national candidates and highlight issues with slick and well-designed advertisements with the intended purpose of extolling their virtues. Or those commercials may present the other side of the coin, too often portraying the negatives of the candidate’s rival, including less-than-flattering images and selected “facts”, rather than objective reasons why the viewer should vote for the favored candidate. Regarding issues, the commercials suggest the horrors of what will happen if the matter is not resolved in a particular way.

Beyond TV messages, there is a tidal wave of radio and newspaper ads, billboards, yard signs, mailers, and pop-up ads on the Internet. Voters experience a barrage of “robo calls” (prerecorded telemarketing phone calls) explaining the urgency and necessity of voting for a particular candidate or issue.

That’s why campaigns hire “spin doctors” (“a person, such as a political aide, responsible for ensuring that others interpret an event from a particular point of view”, (merriam-webster.com). Campaigns are all about focusing on points of view and opinions, not just facts.

Campaigns are expensive. Consider these statements:

• Millions of dollars are paid to advertising consultants, who design and position TV ads for a specific audience.

• Candidates raise millions of dollars to pay the consultants and purchase the ad time on television.

• The local stations, their owners, the TV networks, and cable systems that air the ads reap profits from the purchase of this airtime.

“The total cost of 2022 midterm elections is projected to exceed $9.3 billion, according to an early, conservative estimate by OpenSecrets. More than $4.8 billion has already been spent on 2022 midterms, setting federal election spending on track to surpass the inflation-adjusted 2018 midterm record of $7.1 billion.” (September 26, 2022, https://thefulcrum.us)

And it’s not just the messaging of the professionals. Social media is filled with comments and discussions about issues and candidates, which may or may not be accurate or able to be validated. Comedians on late-night talk shows love the election season, using their monologues to poke fun at specific candidates. In addition, some politicians are invited to be guests on these programs, knowing that audiences often vote based on who they perceive to be likable candidates.

In the United States, elections are big business. And the voters get tired of the bombardment of ads and the calculated manipulation of information.

“American distrust of the U.S. political system is at an all-time high. Many of us are concerned about the dysfunction in Washington and whether things will ever get better. Politics is an industry and the two dominant competitors do everything in their power to focus on serving their supporters and the special interests of those supporters.” (“Our Political System Is Big Business – And That’s Why It’s Failing Us”, http://www.forbes.com)

The use of polls, focus groups, and questionnaires affect decisions made by candidates, lawmakers, office holders, other democratic leaders, and most importantly, the voter. Is it possible that our leaders are merely trying to appease the donors and fellow politicos, rather than choosing what’s truly best for the country?

It’s impossible to ignore or avoid the political onslaught during the fall season every two years. Voters must be informed; they are the only advocates America has. An informed voter knows more than the names or slogans on yard signs or in 30-second TV spots.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Information is the currency of democracy.” In other words, accurate and substantiated facts must be the rationale for selecting a candidate or voting on an issue.

However, God is still sovereign:

“Make your motions and cast your votes, but God has the final say.” Proverbs 16:33 (The Message)

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1, NIV)

The mass media permeate our days. It’s impossible to completely ignore all the images and appeals that are meant to shape our thoughts and actions. But knowledge anchored in Truth is a powerful tool to analyze these mixed messages.

So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?

It is easy to become complacent or even apathetic during election season. With so many conflicting viewpoints, and the overwhelming avalanche of media ads, teens may find themselves bored or intellectually removed from this democratic process. It’s important to craft conversations that focus on foundational aspects of our democracy to promote awareness and stimulate their interest. Try these discussion starters:

• Discuss the role of the mass media in a democratic society vs. their role in a dictatorship.

• Talk about how political candidates use various types of media to their advantage.

• Share, “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech. Free speech is the ‘right to express any opinion in public without censorship or restraint by the government.’” (www.ahdictionary.com). Ask, “Does this mean the media can create and distribute anything they choose?”

• Discuss how the use of social media impacts election results.

• Discuss differences between citizens’ rights and their responsibilities in a democracy.

• Ask, “Do you think voters are well served by election ads that offer opinions and viewpoints instead of substantiated facts?”

• Discuss why some Americans might choose not to vote.

• Ask, “How can God’s precepts become the foundation for personal choices regarding candidates and issues?”

Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.

//

Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!

Contact Info:

Blogs: http://www.MediaSavvyKids.org

Website: http://www.MediaAlert.org

Email: Sue@MediaAlert.org

#MediaSavvyKids, #ChristianParenting, #ChurchAndCulture, #YouthPastors, #YouthGroupCurriculum, #HelpForChristianParents, #TeensAndCulture, #AChangingCulture, #CriticalThinkingAndTeens, #IAmNotDefinedByTheCulture, #DemocracyIssues, #ElectionIsBigBusiness, #ChristiansAndElections, #ElectionsAndTeens

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© Sue Summers 2022

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