Public Opinion and Political Communication





Public Opinion and Political Communication

On evaluation of the two case studies presented by Markus Prior, he argues the increase in media choice has an impact on voter turnout and political knowledge. The study demonstrates that as the number of media chances increase the chance to encounter political content diminishes significantly. He points out the problem facing the electorate is lack of motivation to acquire political knowledge by the public by opting for media with less political content in a high choice media environment. The author bases his findings on a specific theory. The theory states that the media environment of a location determines the extent to which the media use is governed by preference. The logic behind the theory is that viewers have preferences over programs characters and chose programs that best satisfy their preferences.

In the second reading, Matthew Baum argues that in the pursuit of entertainment, most politically inattentive viewers are exposed to political issues by accident resulting to incidental product consumption. He presents a series of investigations to validate his argument. The investigations focus on establishing a relationship between high profile foreign policy crisis and individual media usage. The author delves into investigation on how politically inattentive viewers respond to non foreign crisis issues which are presented in soft news programs, his findings are that there is increase in attraction to the news by these group of viewers thus reducing disparity in the attentiveness in selecting high profile crisis issues.

After evaluating the article by Markus, one can interpret his stance that the media choice of the viewers has a great influence the voter turnout fails to incorporate other important variables. These include the effect of campaign trails and the political inclination of the viewers as democrats or republicans, which are the most important variables to consider in analyzing the overall turn out in an electorate process.

After analysis of the article by Matthew Baum, I agree with his argument that the soft news media has played a crucial role in creating political awareness on matters of foreign policies and crisis to viewers who are politically inattentive as they seek to get entertainment. His argument focuses on the influence of intense public scrutiny by the “attentive public” on policy makers in both congress and the white house. In my opinion, the validity of his argument is undeniably correct.

The two articles present similar and conflicting ideas about the impact of media preference on the improvement of political knowledge and influence on policy makers and electorate process. According to the theory presented by Prior, the increase of knowledge on political issues and foreign policies in people with preference to news and access to cable and internet is gained over a period of time. The use of a panel design with an estimate 2,358 randomly selected individuals to participate in the News & Entertainment Survey was aimed at determining the preference of either entertainment or news and how it affected the overall political knowledge of the participants. The analysis of this investigation showed that the choice of the viewers between different content had an overall effect on how much political content was learnt. However, theories presented by Baum focuses on the repackaging of soft news in order achieve incidental product consumption of knowledge pertaining to foreign policies and crisis. This theory has a similar goal as Prior’s as they both focus on creating awareness to the apolitical viewers about the foreign crisis.

The differences between the two articles arise in the selection of the type of media to be used in conveying the foreign policies. Baum media is the soft news that packages political information in a ‘dramatic’ form such as tabloids, talk shows and entertainment programs in order to capture the attention of the political inattentive viewers. Prior on the other hand, analyses hypotheses based on the impact of media preference to the overall political knowledge acquired and how it affects the decisions made by the policy makers and Congress.

The research variables of both articles are different. In the case studies on Baum’s article, the independent variable is soft news and the dependant variable is attentiveness to foreign crisis. In Prior’s study, the independent variable is the REP (Relative entertainment preference) and the dependant variable is the predicted political knowledge. Another difference that presents itself in the analysis of the two articles is the primary focus of the impact of the knowledge acquired after product consumption. Baum is focused on the impact this knowledge has on the electorate turnout. The study indicates that an increase of new media technologies should increase the difference in turn out rates between those who prefer news and those who prefer entertainment. Prior, on the other hand, is focused on the impact of repacking soft news so that political inattentive viewers can be made aware of the foreign crisis to identify any potential threats to the American community and influence the policies passed by Congress.

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