The Mass Media and the Electorate
Timothy J. Colton
THE EFFECTS of mass media on the elections were examined from the top down by Laura Roselle Helvey in chapter 7 and Joel Ostrow in chapter 8; they analyzed the conduct of the television and press establishments and the information product they generated. This chapter approaches the phenomenon from the bottom up, charting and assessing regularities in the electorate's consumption of and responses to media output during the 1993 campaign.
Although the news media are all but unreconnoitered territory for students of post-Soviet elections, they have attracted attention in the United States and other mature democracies for a half-century. Interest in the theme has always been normative as well as scientific. There was always an underlying unease among the pioneers of election scholarship, writing out of Columbia University during and just after World War II, about the potential of modern communications technology to manipulate--something many scholars and critics feared was augured in anti-utopian fiction and in Adolph Hitler's real-world subversion of German democracy by radio propaganda. These scholars were struck and rather reassured by the degree to which they found press, radio, and, eventually, television information to be mediated by interpersonal networks and other filters. 1
The media have of late roused renewed concern among specialists on public opinion and voting in the West. Recent work revisits some of the core issues of the early studies, as it puzzles over the domination and seem-