Role of Mass Media in Politics

The literature review examines the role of media in politics, how mediatization has increased over the years and the impact media has on voter preferences and the ways through which mass media creates the charismatic character of a political elite. Role of media is discussed in light of the theory of media politics, distributional policy and the concept of negative and positive news bias. It highlights ways through which media and politics have a reciprocal relationship. Extensive research has been done on media and politics yet the focus always remains on the ways political elites manipulate the media outlets according to their own preferences. The present review examines various aspects in reference to the linkage media has with politics, role of mass media as a facilitator and inhibitor and the three distinct issues that media focuses to cover.

Literature Review

Media has a major role to play in politics as it acts as an intermediary between the government and its people. It ensures an effective check on the government and the issues surrounding a particular society. Media can shape individual views and can hold the government accountable for their actions. Mass Media in both developed and developing countries performs two major functions and i.e. of the agenda setter and acting as a public representative. However, the role media plays in societies have an impact on the politics of that society.

The actions of the politicians are driven by their belief in the power of the media, which motivates them to be featured in news coverage. Perception of political actors regarding the influence of the media matters as their effort to be a part of the media coverage would in turn lead to more parliamentary and political activity. “Mediatization”- of modern politics has happened over the years, which means that the intrusion of the media in the political process has increased over the years. Political elites are now more keen to be covered by the media and it in turn has an impact on their political agendas. Politicians are aware of the media game and use the modes of communication as a means of reelection as voters are unlikely to support or vote for candidates they do not know enough about. Moreover, media over the years has acquired a position in the policy-making institutions, it acts as a “communicator within the policy community” (Cohen et al, 2008, p.332-333).

Media creates political candidates charisma and the image of the candidate as a whole motivates the people to consider him while voting. Not only ideological aspects of the candidate but the professional qualifications of the candidate including honesty and integrity are taken into account by the voters. The public image of the candidate is mainly based on the way the media portrays him and projects his image in the society. However, different media outlets have their own political preferences, which may be translated, at different levels. (Diaz, 2006, p.354-356).

Television plays an important role in politics as during elections the media brings the event directly to its viewers. The ultimate goal of the political managers is to combine the advantages of the television penetration of masses of voters with the excitement of the political rally and personal appearance. Political structure of any state is dependent on both electronic and print media. The media has little or no room in influencing the voter decision making as people decide their candidates based on their own preferences, however; media has a direct influence on state and other local matters. Moreover, there is a cause and effect relationship between media and the voters. The more voters are exposed to the campaigns of their political party the more they come to feel about their candidate by obtaining correct information (Emery, 1976, p.89-90).

Mass media hinders and facilitates by translating personal experiences into political preferences. Aspects of media has an impact on the way a presidential candidate or other political elites function and there is also a direct impact of their personal experiences on the way they function in office. Mass media acts as a facilitator and it can help in legitimizing the politicization of personal experiences. Individual experiences are part of the social trends that prevail in a particular society. Mass Media compiles the personal experiences and present it in abstract form, which assists people in interpreting experiences of various individuals as a part of the social trends. Moreover, mass media also acts as an inhibitor meaning in the absence of mass media the individuals will resort to their own individual thinking as a source of information on which they base the evaluation and judgements of different policies and politicians (Mutz, 1994, p.691-693).

The element of mass media is perceived by many as a central force in many modern democracies. Political parties show interest in politicizing general issues which then generates media attention, however; the domains and subjects of the issue vary between different political parties. There is a reciprocal relationship between macro-political agendas and media agendas, which relates to the factors in both political context and in the context of the media. There are obtrusive and unobtrusive issue, which is further, classified into three types of issues i.e. sensational, prominent and governmental issues. Sensational issues are the ones that are unobtrusive and are generally not observed by the public. Such issues include aspects of law and order where media can have an effect on the results. Prominent issues are the ones where people have to rely mainly on their own experience and judgments. It includes mostly welfare and unemployment issues that can have tangible consequences for the people. Last category is that of governmental issues, which includes aspects like that of foreign policy and administrative issues. Under governmental issues the mass media does not have an impact on the macro-politics. Mass media has more effect on the activities of the opposition parties and interpellations in the parliament rather than on government decisions in reference to different policies. Parties have certain preferences over the issues they discuss hence the electorates considers them fit to tackle the issues they support and on which they have based the ideology of their party. For instance the social democratic parties support welfare state issues (Pedersen, Stubager, 2010, p.663-667).

Media dictates the opinion of the public and it has an adverse effect on the political power in the United States. Media power can be categorized into three distinct parts which deals with the linkages between media and politics, media and presidential elections and the influence of media on the voting behavior of the people, public opinion and foreign news etc., (Paletz, Entman, 1982, p.148).

Role of Media in Politics
Role of Media in Politics

Theory of media politics suggests that the interest of the politicians, journalists and the citizens shapes the news. Various interests and goals of the politicians, journalists and the citizens vary. The main goal of the journalists is to come up with news that can attract the audience at large and which can pump up the ratings of their television channels and the show they represent. The goals of the citizens is to hold the people representing their state and political office accountable if they fail to deliver the major goals promised to its people. However, the goal of the politicians is what actually shapes the goals of the citizens and the journalists. Politicians aim to mobilize the people and to encourage them to vote for them. The goals between these three actors are in a state of constant conflict as the politicians would want the journalists to act as a conveyor belt of their press releases and statements regarding any prevalent issue in the society, however; journalists wish to be free and express their own opinion and provide an in-depth analysis on the issue prevailing in the society (Zaller, 1999, p.3).

Distributional approach of the media is required to understand the factors that influence the news selection in mass media, moreover; mass media has a tendency to focus more on the negative news rather than the positive news. The preference of negative news over the positive news exists mainly because the concept of negative bias exists in wide range of subjects and mass media. Media tends to produce content that is more negative than reality. Negative news appeals to a greater audience and attracts the society at large because it is discussed more at both national and international platforms. Positive news tends to be discussed and scrutinized once and after that it no longer exists for the people. Negative news has a psychological impact on individuals and it leaves a deep scar on their minds (Soroka, 2012, p. 514).


Media has evolved over the years and the way media projects political parties on social media also have an impact on the way we perceive them. Public facing social media has over the years become highly conservative which highlights the social norms that exist in the society at the local level, however; in spite of the element of conservatism, social media is a platform where people make fun of different political parties and political elites for creating useful connections and to increase popularity among friends. Media has increased political awareness over the years and hence people are now more aware of the international as well as national affairs. The more the politicians try to suppress the press and the media the more it retaliates in the current system of society. Media has over the years increased the accountability of the government as now the societies are always connected to the issues and the outcomes of those issues through the new forms of media (Miller et al, p.145).

In conclusion, media plays a vital role in shaping the politics of a country. The perceptions of the society are transformed by the way media highlights a particular issue. The influence of the media on the decision making process and the decision making body is high. The new media technologies have transformed the political potential, however; social media does face the reality of political constraints. It continues to be intimidated by the financial and regulatory pressures that are regulated by the state, which often creates hurdles in media’s watchdog and agenda setting roles.

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