How is the media biased towards presidential candidates?
The concept of media bias is one without a single definition. It is generally understood to concern particular parts of the media and its inclination to provide more support for one side of an opinion, submission etc. than the others (Wolfgang Donsbach, 2015).
This “support” provided by the media, arises in a large variety of forms. Below, two of the most notable of these forms are going to be illustrated. To address the questions direct concern with the U.S. presidential race, the examples will be tailored accordingly.
Distortion of facts is a type of
Media bias that occurs when an outlet either intentionally distorts a fact or is unintentionally wrong when asserting a “fact”. The result of which has harsh potential repercussions, as such an assertion can influence consumer opinion and/or actions.
A perfect example occurred during the 2000 Florida State presidential vote. Large media outlets (e.g. Fox News) reported that Al Gore had succeeded in clinching the State by an incredibly small margin (537 votes) at 7 o’clock, the time which polls typically closed. What the media outlets had failed to acknowledge was that the varied time zone in Florida meant the polls were in fact still open for another hour. After acknowledging this a number of would-be voters did not attend.
Although it is debated as to whether this early reporting would have changed the outcome of the election (John Lott, 2014), the influence this had on consumers is not disputed (John Lott, 2014), merely the number of whom it potentially affected.
Imbalanced reporting another method of media bias, provides that consumer opinions can become partially formed. As they are based on a limited amount of information concerning a particular issue.
The 2016 U.S. election cycle has seen an almost innumerate amount of media coverage. A huge amount of said coverage focussing on the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the leaders of their respective parties (RealClear Politics, 2016). They however are not the only candidates running for president with considerable voter influence this year.
Gary Johnson is the head of the Libertarian Party, and although a third party candidate, current theoretical polls register him winning around 10% of the vote (Claire Malone, 2016). Even with this considerable political influence however, he is unrecognisable to the majority of the U.S. (Peter Moore, 2016). Considering the relevant importance of such a decision, for a consumers’ opinion to be truly formed it could be considered prudent of media outlets to award more coverage to such a person.
The point being made is that the media by neglecting to cover things adequately (in the example an alternative candidate), can limit a consumers perceived choices to those that correspond with the medias’ bias.
Donsbach, W. 2015. The Concise Encyclopedia of Communication. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.
Lott, J and Blase, B. 2014. Moore’s Myths. [Online]. [Accessed 03 September 2016]. Available from: http://johnrlott.tripod.com/op-eds/MooresMyths.html
Malone, C. 2016. Pay Attention To Libertarian Gary Johnson; He’s Pulling 10 Percent vs. Trump And Clinton. [Online] [Accessed 03 September 2016]. Available from: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/pay-attention-to-libertarian-gary-johnson-hes-pulling-10-vs-trump-and-clinton/
Moore, P. 2016. Poll Results: Gary Johnson. [Online]. [Accessed 03 September 2016]. Available from: https://today.yougov.com/news/2016/06/01/poll-results-gary-johnson/
RealClear Politics. 2016. General Election: Trump vs. Clinton vs. Johnson vs. Stein. [Online]. [Accessed 03 September 2016]. Available from: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton_vs_johnson_vs_stein-5952.html