A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication

By Richard Jackson Harris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Politics: Using News and
Advertising to Win Elections

Q: In general, what is the most common type of television news content across different cultures?

A: Politics. It comprised between 25% and 40% of all news stories of each nation in a cross-cultural study of television news in the United States, Japan, Germany, Russia, Italy, India, Colombia, and China. This was more than economic, social, cultural, military, or crime stories (Straubhaar et al., 1992).

Q: How much is spent on political campaigns in the U. S.?

A: The 2000 Presidential election, the most expensive ever, cost $3 billion in combined expenses for all candidates, parties, and interest groups. (Johnston, 2001).

Q: What was the average length of stories on U. S. network TV news during the Presidential campaign of 1968?

A: 42 seconds (Hallin, 1992)

Q: What was the average length in 1992?

A: 8 seconds (Gibbs, 1996)

Politics and the media have long been intimately involved with each other, with media strongly setting the agenda that politics is very important. Although television has made some drastic changes in the nature of that relationship, the connection itself is not new. Print media have long covered political campaigns, and the level of political rhetoric has sometimes been far more vicious than it is today. For example, the U. S. presidential campaign of 1884 saw Democrat Grover Cleveland's alleged fathering of an illegitimate child as a major campaign issue (“Hey, man, where's my pa?” “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!”). For another historical example, see Box 8.1 for more on the political use of the media by abolitionists in pre-Civil War United States.

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