Category Archives: Politics 1010

Is Television Falling From Political Favor?

Televised campaign ads just aren’t what they used to be. In our increasingly Internet-bound culture, more and more voters are turning to social media sites and other web-based platforms for their daily news. Recent surveys show that while Baby Boomers rely primarily on televised programming for news, Millennials prefer to check their apps. According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, a full 61% of millennials check their Facebook feeds to stay updated on current events in any given week, while only 37% report turning to their televisions for information.

 

Campaigns have long spent incredible amounts of money on televised ads in attempts to sway voters to their sides – but will those tactics lose their efficacy if current trends continue, and younger viewers opt not to tune in?

 

The answer is complicated.

 

In the 2016 election, President Trump spent considerably less than Hillary Clinton on his campaign. Estimates from the Washington Post put his expenditures at 956.7 million, against Clinton’s 1.4 billion. This isn’t a simple matter of spending less – it’s a matter of not needing to spend as much.

 

Unlike most traditional candidates, Trump received a remarkable amount of (free) social media engagement, and depended heavily on his existing base of followers to disseminate and engage with his messages. Moreover, because of the traditional media coverage allotted to candidates, his social media reach was actually extended by conventional coverage as his social presence fed into his political persona. The key to the Trump campaign was its effective utilization of both traditional and social media platforms. According to Adam Broder of FTI Consulting, Trump may have “earned” as much as $5 billion in free media coverage through his unconventional melding of social and traditional media campaigns.

 

But is this to say that television ads will cease to be relevant in upcoming years?

 

Not necessarily.

 

Television ads still reach a considerable number of people, and studies have shown that television ads have a significant impact on late-deciders. It is worth noting that Trump, despite his comparatively low spending in the months prior, poured money into television ad buys in the last few weeks of the election – increasing his spending from roughly $23,000 per electoral vote per week to over $91,000 per electoral vote per week in the final weeks of the campaign.

 

There’s no doubt that social media sites have begun to dominate as platforms for political news, particularly for younger voters. However, television will always serve as a valuable space for campaigners, and hold a place in strategy. As we move forward, the best campaigns will need to merge social media engagement with traditional coverage in order to build a strong and widely promoted candidate presence.

 

The Importance Being Politically Involved in College

The-Importance-of-Being-Politically-Involved-in-College-HeaderOpinions are easy to have. It takes very little effort to lounge on a dorm couch and strike up an idle conversation about your thoughts on the latest healthcare reforms with a roommate, especially if that roommate happens to hold similar beliefs to yours. The chat might even end with mutual grumblings and complaints about the changes you know need to take place in order to eliminate the flaws you see in current policies. But by the end of the day, you decide that there isn’t anything that you, a college student, can do to back your words.

You would be wrong. College students have more power than they know; according to data from the 2014 Census, there are over 27.5 million United States citizens between the ages of 18 and 24. The reported number is far from insignificant – so why do college students so often feel that their beliefs don’t hold sway? Unfortunately, their own lack of action may be at fault: of those 27.5 million potential voters, only 4.7 million, or 17% of the pool actually submitted a vote.

These numbers are troubling, and reveal more than anything that while opinions may be easy to have, real change requires action more effort than what might be contributed to a dorm-room conversation. Luckily, there are a multitude of ways that college-age voters can enter into their political community.

Find an on-campus political group that aligns with your personal beliefs.

Nearly every campus will have clubs devoted to representing the interests of College Republicans or College Democrats – and often similar clubs for those who lean Independent or third-party. Decide which organization aligns most closely with your own political leanings, and send its president or communications officer an email! In all likelihood, they’ll welcome a new member.

Hold on-campus registration events.

The best way to combat political apathy in college students is to convince them that their voice matters. Encourage potential voters to do their part at the polls by holding voter registration events on-campus. In doing so, you’ll not only boost voter engagement, but foster a constructive climate of political activism at your school.

Bring a political candidate or activist to campus.

It’s all too easy for a student to disappear into the schoolwork-dominated campus bubble and lock out happenings in the non-academic world. Bring the political world into the academic sphere by inviting local political figures or activists to speak on campus. Even the students who don’t necessarily agree with the perspective your guest offers will benefit from the constructive debate that their visit will inevitably prompt. Moreover, a student’s renewed or changed feelings might inspire them to vote on the issues when they reach the polls.

College students are a vital subset of the voter population, and work needs to be done to boost their currently disheartening levels of engagement. Change is made by those who act – so get off the couch! Join whichever on-campus political organization you feel best represents your beliefs, and make the difference you want to see in your government.

The Negatives of Going Negative

Few things are guaranteed in political campaigns aside from the fact that there will be a winner, there will be a loser, and there will be a slew of negative campaign ads. Of course, many voters say that they don’t endorse “mudslinging,” as the practice is euphemistically known, but campaign ads that emphasize the weaknesses or outright attack a particular candidate or policy are remarkably common during election season. In fact, 76% of all television campaign ads from the 2016 general election—specifically the presidential race—were negative ads that attacked a candidate’s character.

Despite the ubiquity of campaign ads, there is little consensus on why or how they manage to influence voters. Some experts believe that a proliferation of negative ads can cause voters to become more pessimistic about both candidates that they don’t vote at all, which would imply that negative ads depress voter turnout rather than persuading candidates to vote for a certain candidate over the other. By contrast, others believe that negative ads can push voters to head to the polls by making them scared enough to vote against the candidate on the receiving end of all the negative ads.

Yet another school of thought suggests that negative ads are most effective in the early stages of a campaign when candidates have still not defined themselves to the voters. At this point, a negative ad can create an association between one candidate as immoral, untrustworthy, or incompetent, and that first impression can taint voters’ perceptions of said candidate for the duration of the election cycle (or, in some cases, even longer).

Even with the potential advantages of running a negative ad, they can backfire and do tremendous damage to the candidate who put forth the ad instead of the candidate targeted by it. For example, if a candidate tries to smear their opponent using a negative ad, the voters may feel solidarity with the candidate under fire and subsequently resent the candidate who created the ad, seeing him or her as duplicitous and underhanded. Additionally, even when negative ads are effective, they don’t necessarily convince the public to vote for you—they just convince them not to vote for your opponent—so you will still need to energize your supporters enough to go to the polls even in spite of successful negative campaigning.

When it comes to the final verdict on the use of negative ads in political campaigns, in the minds of many experts, the jury is still out. For some, they are an effective way to identify and differentiate between candidates; for others, negative ads only serve to undermine public faith in our officials and depress voter turnout. One thing that’s not up for debate, however, is the popularity of negative ands, and for better or for worse, it looks like they’re here to stay.

Advice for Door-to-Door Campaigning

One of the most hallowed traditions in American politics is the art of door-to-door campaigning. People love to meet the men and women who are vying for their votes, and there is arguably no better opportunity to connect with the voters who can carry you to victory than by talking to them about important issues from the comfort of their porches. On the other hand, knocking on doors can be an intimidating experience for some candidates and volunteers, so here’s some advice on how you can conduct door-to-door campaigning as effectively as possible.

Focus on Registered Voters

If you want to win, you need to gain the support of men and women who can actually vote, so make sure that your door-to-door efforts only target registered voters. You can organize a voter registration drive if you want to engage new sections of the electorate, but during door-to-door campaigning, you want to focus on the areas where you can earn the greatest possible return, and that means not sacrificing precious time with people who aren’t registered to vote. Contact your local board of election for an up-to-date list of registered voters in your district, city, or state.

Be Brief!

While it’s admirable for you spend an hour talking to each voter and winning them over to your positions, you simply don’t have the time for it. Aim to spend three minutes at each house: Give your name, a short description of what’s important to you and what you hope to achieve, offer the voter some campaign literature, and go to the next house.

Avoid Arguments

Perhaps the worst possible outcome during door-to-door campaigning is for the candidate to get caught in an argument with a constituent. To sidestep this potential trap, remain polite even when people get heated. Acknowledge the voter’s frustration—if they disagree with one of your positions, you can say, “I can see where you’re coming from” or “I can tell that you’re passionate about this topic”—and then move on.

Ask for Voters’ Support

Once you’ve put in the effort of knocking on a voter’s door and discussing your ideas with them, don’t just walk away: Ask for their support! The person will feel more energized about voting or volunteering if the candidate asks for their help directly, so make sure that you take advantage of this opportunity to engage new men and women with your campaign—plus, if they do offer their support, you can have your campaign staff take down their information and contact them about future events or get out the vote initiatives. It’s also a good idea to leave each voter with some literature that discusses your positions or explains how they can get more involved.

How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship with the Press

Although the First Amendment guarantees our right to a free press, relationships between the media and politicians have always been tense. For example, President John F. Kennedy had a relationship with the press that at times devolved into censorship, withholding of information, and at times deception in order to contain stories the administration considered hostile to its goals. The relationships between politicians and reporters doesn’t need to be so extreme, however, so if you’re running for office, take a look at what you can do to foster a healthy relationship with the press!

Don’t Hide

You may feel tempted to avoid talking to the press altogether, but this idea will more than likely backfire. If you don’t talk to the media and try to keep them at arm’s length, then they’ll grow to distrust you and try to dig into your past in an attempt to learn what, if anything, you’re trying to hide. In addition, if you refuse to discuss your ideas or your campaign with reporters, the result will be critical coverage and articles that may drive public opinion against you.

Instead, from time to time, reach out to journalists so that you can take control of the narrative of your campaign. You can set the terms of the meeting: If you want to talk in-depth about a policy or if you’re afraid of being ambushed by a large group of reporters, consider hosting one-on-one interviews. On the other hand, if you want to quickly issue a few statements and avoid looking like you’ve got something to hide, then regular press conferences might be the best approach for you.

Talk to a Range of Media Outlets

Resist the urge to grant press access only to the outlets that give you favorable coverage. This opens you up to accusations of cronyism and an unwillingness to listen to criticism. At the same time, since the audiences of the publications or programs that support you are most likely going to vote for you on election day, only reaching out to reporters who have covered you favorably isn’t going to attract many new or undecided voters–if any at all–to your cause.

With that in mind, stay in touch with a range of journalists, both those who support you as well as those who have been critical. You’ll dispel notions of favoritism or pandering while working to engage a broader swath of the electorate.

Be Honest

If you’re dishonest with a reporter and it comes to light, that might be the last thing you do as a candidate for public office. Lying destroys your credibility and reputation not just with the press but with the voters as well, and as a result, your campaign will more than likely be finished. You can work with your campaign staff to determine what language you want to use, but even when it’s uncomfortable to tell the truth, never, never, lie to the press!