A political research paper on the role of media in american politics over the past decade.
Over the past 10 years media has played a huge role in shaping the world of politics, with the United States being at the forefront of these changes. It cannot be denied that the entirety of the political sphere in the States has changed drastically over the last decade. However with the introduction and influence of the media and the online community, the catalyst is clear to see. Over the course of this paper we will examine the idea of media as a whole, the role of social media in democracy and crucially, we will focus on the connection between high levels of social media use and an increase in political participation in America.
Media and politics are very current and contentious topics with a significant amount of political research being conducted in the two respective areas. However it must be emphasised that very few research findings and materials focus on the connection between the two phenomenons. Ultimately, the political sciences have the capacity to control and mould a nation and furthermore, the global community. With due consideration to this fact, we must examine the impact that social media, a relatively new and foreign platform, designed as a means of transnational communication and expression has the american political climate and furthermore the international community as a whole. It is evident that the vast advancements and presence of the online world has facilitated its ability to influence politics to a high degree. It is for this reason that the issue under discussion is of great relevance: how has this relationship between politics and media evolved? How do the two influence one another and what does this mean for the future of the political world? We hope to engage fully with these thought provoking questions and carry out a thorough investigation.
The causal link discovered between social media use and the increase in political participation undeniably proves that social media is an important element in the future of politics. A virtual political world that grows and prospers online. It is clear to see that a diverse range of communities have begun interacting online in a political capacity. Both politicians and voters alike are now utilising the same platform. Not to mention the journalists and government representatives who use the online stage to broadcast news reports and ongoing advancements and controversies. Through in depth analysis of political dominance in the past decade coupled with the introduction of the media, this paper will explore the curious relationship between the two. Ultimately, the reasoning provided for in this paper will highlight that the increase of social media use has in fact a significant effect on the political participation of the American population.
Media has evolved greatly over the past decade. Ten years ago the most prominent source of media reporting on politics came from more traditional streams such as the newspaper, tv and radio.
The biggest change can be observed in Print media which has steadily decreased over the past century and increasingly so over the past decade. In the US, ”weekday print circulation has shrunk” in half nearly over the past ten years ( McLennan & Miles, Washington post, March 2018), an industry which has unfortunately lost a fifth of its journalists since 2001 (Chyi & Lee, 2009). The same can be said for newspaper culture around the world, the independent in the UK which once sold over 185,000 newspapers a day in 2010 ( Audit bureau of circulations,2011 ) ceased printing in 2016 ( BBC news, 2016).
Although the world of television and radio hasn’t seen as much of a drastic change as the print industry it too has been faced with challenges in order to survive in the modern era. Less than 50% of americans consider tv or radio to be their primary source of news which is a significant change from nearer 70% ten years previous ( Matsa,Pew research center,2018). The type of media we use to obtain our political information has undoubtedly changed over the past ten years.
We have seen the traditional media sources previously mentioned become digitalised in an attempt to survive and flourish in this current tech obsessed climate. There have been many studies carried out on whether or not information is lost when media sources become digitalised; in summary most have found that no information is lost in the transition from print media to digital. (Marina Ghersetti examined the news reporting during the 2010 swedish election campaign and found no difference between how print newspapers reported compared to online sources.) Social media is now a primary source of political information for americans and is the preferred choice en mass.With the President of the United States using Twitter as his primary method of communicating this change is widespread. Alongside the modernisation of traditional news outlets we have also seen the creation of a brand new media outlet in the last decade.
This research project will primarily be focused on the effect of social media on american politics, in order to do this we must have a clear understanding of what social media is. We define social media as a group of internet-based applications that allow for the creation and exchange of user generated content ( Kaplan ; Haenlein 2010). The first recognizable social network site launched in 1997. SixDegrees.com allowed users to create profiles and list friends but it wasn’t until the creation of Friendster in 2002 that we really saw the production of the social media we have now ( Boyd & Ellison,2007). Since the early days of SNS(social networking sites) the industry has grown at an extraordinary rate.To put into perspective how much of a global phenomenon social media really is we can look at statistics released annually in the global digital report which estimate the number of social media users worldwide in 2018 is 3.196 billion, up 13 percent year-on-year. If we focus on the United States research has found that 80 percent of U.S americans have a social media profile in 2017 which has increased rapidly from just 10 percent in 2008. (Kemp, 2018). According to the Pew Research Center in 2016, 35 percent of americans surveyed between ages 18 and 29 said that social media was the “most helpful” source of information about the presidential campaign.
We are concerned with not only the rise in popularity of social media as a whole but more specifically the effect this increase in participation of social media has had on the world of american politics. This is a relatively new area of study, although academics have carried out numerous studies on rates of social media use among different sections of the population few have focused on the political effects of this use. It has been proven that social media increases political participation, for example a study done in 2015 by Boulianne found a positive association between social media use and political engagement.However, because the vast majority of studies relied on cross-sectional survey data, they were severely restricted in their ability to test hypotheses about the causal relationships between the variables and the effect of this proven relationship. Little progress has been made in testing the effect of the discovered relationship between social media and political participation which is why we are carrying out this project. (Boulianne, 2015)
The media plays an important role in strengthening democracy across the world and america is no exception.Democracy and the united states political system has gone hand in hand since the formation of its constitution in 1788 ( Kammen,1986). The media’s key role in this democratic governance has been recognized since the late 17th century, and remains a fundamental principle of modern-day democratic theory and practice.(Coronel) . Thomas Jefferson, celebrated the press, arguing that only through the exchange of information and opinion through the press would the truth emerge and moreover democracy would strengthen and spread. Thus the famous Jeffersonian declaration was created: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.” (Coronel)
There is no doubt that traditional mainstream media has played an influential part in politics but it’s time we focus on the new wave of media,social media, and its role in politics and democracy as a whole. The media provides a platform for the expression of important topics which often tend to be of a political nature, with the creation of social media this platform has never been more accessible. One of the central pillars in democracy is freedom of speech and the statistic that nearly 80 percent of americans are on social media means that freedom of speech has never been so free than in 2018(Kemp,2018). Of course this then opens up the issue of quantity rather than quality and a news cycle that is completely saturated with information. Another issue that arises is the reliability of this social media, gone are the days of newspaper editors and fact checkers, social media gives people a platform to publish political mistruths to the world which can have a knock on effect on the political system as a whole. We must examine the pros and cons of social media in order to truly analyse its effect on american political participation.
Robert Putnam, wrote a book titled ”Bowling Alone” in which he discusses the idea of witnessing a decline in civic participation but we must now look to social media in order to observe the growth of participation in politics and society as a whole ( Putnam, 2014). The book ”Citizens Or Consumers?: What the Media Tell Us about Political Participation” highlights the importance of examining the growth of virtual communities online, the authors are ”alarmed” by the digital age and argue that people are straying away from civic life and ”that basic forms of democratic decision making” are being lost. ( Lewis, Inthorn,Jorgensen, 2009) Instead of seeing the development of technology as a negative our hypothesis puts forward the idea of embracing social media’s influence on society.
High levels of social media use have resulted in an increase in political participation in the US over the past decade. We consider high levels of social media use to be any given person who spends more than an hour a day on social media platforms. The average american spends nearly two hours a day on social media ( Pew research center, 2015) , there is no doubt that more than half the population exceeds the recommended time spent on social media per day (Pew research Center,2018 ).
To focus on the other element of our hypothesis we must define political participation; its refers to those activities by private citizens that are more or less directly aimed at influencing the selection of governmental personnel or the actions they take. (Verba ; Nie, 1972)
Social media can be considered our independent variable as it is the variable we are changing which is causing an effect on our dependent variable, political participation. We observe a casual relationship between our two variables as high levels of social media use increase the levels of political participation in the united states.
The geographical area of examination is the United states of America over a ten year time period from 2008-2018.
Over the past decade political participation has greatly increased and so too has the use of social media. Both of these areas have been greatly researched and continuous growth has been proven but the link between the two is still a relatively new area of study. The average american citizen now looks to twitter or facebook for their political news update, instead of having to wait for the morning paper or the six o’clock news, people are able to access and notably now contribute to the political sphere twenty four hours a day. We now see political representatives of all levels most notably the president of the united states, Donald Trump, use social media as a primary tool for spreading their message and ultimately hoping to increase their support. By passing mainstream media outlets and posting messages straight to the screens of voters, politics is now more accessible than it has ever been before. The relationship is far from spurious,there is clear link between social media use and the increase in political participation.
Data Methodology & operationalisation
In order to successfully prove our hypothesis that an increase use of social media over the past decade has led to an increase political participation we will employ a survey and then compare it to the records of growth of politcal partcipation and separate studies of the growth in social media. this formal process of systematically reviewing findings from other previously recorded statistics and comparing them with the data findings from our survey will ensure a high level of accuracy.
The sample group-
In order to find data that is a true representation of the average american finding the correct sample to take the survey will be crucial to our research. In order to create a fair sample we will employ a method of stratified sampling which breaks down the population into subsets based upon a range of characteristics such as gender, age, socioeconomic level etc. Then the population is randomly sampled within each category ensuring we have a broad range of participants, every category of the population is represented thus creating a more accurate idea of our average american.
The questions asked in the survey will result in a mix of both qualitative eg has social media altered your political views and quantitative data such as how many hrs a day to you spend looking at politically based social media content. Social media time will be measured in hours and although political participation is harder to measure we will judge it based upon how often our sample size is interacting with political material online whether that’s creating it or simply observing it.
Our survey will be carried out in random locations throughout American again strengthening the creation of a fair random sample set.
In order to examine the effect high levels of social media use has had on political participation over the past decade we plan to compare political participation levels ; social media use in 2008 against the results of our survey in 2018. The continous growth of social media over the decade and the rise in political participation have been analysed separately but now we are comparing them side by side and further strengthening the argument with our survey .
The survey findings will suggest that the ease at which social media allows the general public to obtain up to date political information whether its reading their presidents tweets or watching news updates on facebook, is fueling a society in which people are interacting with politics much more than they ever have.
Throughout the decades, the political landscape has constantly evolved and continues to do so; new political theories, parties and ideologies are steadily being created and shared. Political participation is the key factor that is vital in order for this continued growth of the political sphere. Without participation, politics loses its purpose and moreover its power which is why we must invest time into the research of the catalyst fueling this participation.
We have seen politics grow and evolve, from the creation of politics during the roman empire (Marivale, 2006) to now the invention of a completely new phenomena shaping political participation in this decade. The growth in social media over the past ten years has led to the creation of an online political strand. Citizens around the world are afforded the opportunity to gain in depth insights into political issues as they unfold thanks to the presence of the presence of social media.
The new found obsession over social media and social networking sites is a major contributor to the continued success of political participation around the world. Users log on to their accounts and are flooded with relevant a range of materials which in turn allows society to engage and contribute to the world of politics, an activity that was only considered suitable for elitist men in the not too distant past.
The purpose of this project was to connect the dots between a rise in social media use and a rise in political participation. Our findings allow us to conclude that the high levels of social media use in the United States are directly affecting the rates of political participation for the better across the country. We can now continue to encourage this participation and understand more about the possible future that lies ahead in politics. With any type of political research there is always a lacuna for possible shortcomings. In this way, it must be noted that US statistics do not allow us to accurately make assumptions regarding the relationship of political participation and social media of other nations across the globe. We must also acknowledge that our qualitative research questions are up for individual interpretation and that a margin of error exists.
In conclusion, one cannot dispute the existence of social media in today’s society and moreover its interaction with politics. This paper has analysed the rate of political participation in the modern era and the contribution of social media platforms to this constantly evolving field of research.
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