Chapter 8: Mass Media and
Public Opinion
Section 3
Objectives
1. Examine the role of the mass media in
providing the public with political
information.
2. Explain how the mass media influence
politics.
3. Understand the factors that limit the
influence of the media.
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Key Terms
• medium: a means of communication
• weblog: Web site postings usually devoted
to a specific subject, like politics
• public agenda: the societal problems that
the nation’s political leaders and the general
public agree need government attention
• sound bite: short, focused reports that can
be aired in about 30-45 seconds
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Slide 3
Introduction
• How has the development of different media
helped inform the public about politics?
– People can now get political information from a wide
range of media, including television, radio,
newspapers, magazines, and the Internet.
– Accessibility to political news has thus increased,
though in-depth coverage of news events may not
have improved.
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Slide 4
The Role of Mass Media
• The mass media includes methods of communication
that reach large audiences simultaneously.
• The five major types of mass media that influence
American politics today are television, Internet, radio,
newspapers, and magazines.
• Mass media in the United States are independent of
government control.
• At the same time, most people gain their knowledge of
government and politics from the mass media.
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Slide 5
The Role of Mass Media
• How has the
percentage of
Americans who get
their campaign news
from network news
and the Internet
changed since 2000?
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Television
• Television news began to boom in the
1950s.
• TV replaced newspapers as the main
source of political information in the 1960s
and is the
main source
of news
for 80% of
Americans
today.
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Slide 7
Television, cont.
• Three major national networks—ABC, CBS, and
NBC—dominated early television news.
• The major networks
have been challenged
in recent years by
independent
broadcasting groups,
cable broadcasters
such as CNN, and
the Public
Broadcasting
System (PBS).
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Slide 8
Newspapers
• Newspapers were the
main news source in
the colonies and early
nation.
• Newspapers were so
influential in the late
1800s that so-called
yellow journalists were
able to use sensational
editorials and headlines
to help push America
into war with Spain.
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Slide 9
Newspapers, cont.
• Today more than 10,000 newspapers are published in
the United States.
• About 45% of the nation’s adult population read a
newspaper daily.
• But the number of daily newspapers has been declining
as people turn to radio, TV, and the Internet for news.
• A few major newspapers still have national influence, in
part because they cover stories in greater depth.
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Slide 10
Radio
• In the 1920 and 1930s
radio became a major
source of political
news.
• Radio remains
influential today due to
its convenience, the
popularity of talk radio,
and radio’s ability to
focus on specific
groups of listeners.
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Slide 11
Magazines
• The first political magazines appeared in the mid1800s.
• In the decades before radio and TV, magazines
were the major national news medium.
• Some 12,000 magazines are published today. Time,
Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report are key
sources of political news and commentary.
• Other magazines with smaller circulations also focus
on public affairs.
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Slide 12
The Internet
• The Internet is fast
becoming a leading
source of political news
and information, behind
TV but now ahead of
radio, newspapers, and
magazines.
• Nearly 2/3 of Americans
say they go online on a
regular basis.
Chapter 8, Section 3
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Slide 13
The Internet, cont.
• Most newspapers, magazines, and television
stations maintain Web sites, usually with free
content.
• The same is true of government agencies,
interest groups, political parties, public officials
and candidates.
• Today there are also many weblogs and
podcasts devoted to topics involving government
and politics.
Chapter 8, Section 3
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Slide 14
Media and Public Opinion
• The media plays a large role in shaping
the public agenda, the social problems
that leaders and the public focus upon.
– People rely on the media for most of the
information they receive on public issues.
– The media plays a key role in determining
what policy issues the public thinks and talks
about, by emphasizing some issues and
stories while ignoring or downplaying others.
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Slide 15
Media and Public Opinion, cont.
• The media may not
tell people what to
think, but in a way, it
does tell them what to
think about.
– What is this cartoonist
saying about media
influence on the
public?
Chapter 8, Section 3
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Slide 16
Media and Politics
• Politicians are also
strongly influenced by
major news
organizations, including
the major TV and cable
networks, news
magazines, and
newspapers.
– What is this cartoonist
saying about media
influence on politicians?
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Slide 17
Media and Electoral Politics
• Checkpoint: How do candidates use media
coverage to their advantage?
– Candidates for public office use the media to appeal
directly to the people without having to rely as much
on their political parties.
– They also control their media image and manipulate
media coverage, using staged events and sound bites
to present themselves in a positive way and get
maximum exposure.
Chapter 8, Section 3
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Slide 18
Limits on Media Influence
• Most radio and TV programs do not cover public affairs,
and their news coverage is not typically in-depth.
• Few people follow media coverage of political events
very closely.
• People tend to follow political news that agrees with their
own views.
• Being an informed citizen thus takes the effort to seek
out in-depth news coverage of public affairs.
Chapter 8, Section 3
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Slide 19
Review
• Now that you have learned about how the
development of different media has helped
inform the public about politics, go back
and answer the Chapter Essential
Question.
– What is the place of the media and public
opinion in a democracy?
Chapter 8, Section 3
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