It would be hard to overestimate the importance of mass media in the U.S. electoral process. National television networks reach 99 percent of all American homes, making contact across the entiresocioeconomic spectrum. Cable news stations, radio and television talk shows, newspapers, news magazines and Internet sites all provide voters with information about the candidates. The content andemphasis of their coverage are among the most powerful factors in determining how voters perceive the candidates and the issues.
As a way of communicating more directly with voters, candidates buytelevision and radio advertising time. In the 2000 presidential election, the two major-party candidates spent $285 million, with about 60 percent of it going to advertising. The high cost of reaching votersrequires the campaigns to concentrate their ad buys in areas where they believe they have a chance of affecting undecided voters' opinions -- resulting in the residents of some media regions beingbombarded with political ads and others having little exposure to them.
The 2004 election was the first in which the Internet played a significant role as a medium for campaigning and for raising money.Former presidential hopeful Howard Dean, governor of the small state of Vermont, used his Web site to form a network of thousands of enthusiastic volunteers. Before dropping out of the race, Deanraised more money than his opponents in the Democratic primaries and received favorable media coverage for demonstrating the political power of the Internet.
The other candidates in the race followedDean's lead and made good use of the Internet. President Bush and Senator John Kerry had elaborate Web sites, where they promoted their agendas and attempted to refute their opponents' campaignmessages.
One of the many ways that the election of Barack Obama as president has echoed that of John F. Kennedy is his use of a new medium that will forever change politics. For Mr. Kennedy, it was...
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