How Does Mass Media Affect Public Opinion?
Mass media helps shape public opinion. It is a powerful force yet many people do not realize what effect it has in shaping their opinion.
Mass media is intended to be informative. Public opinion depends on knowledge about what is going on in the country and the world. The media provides the public with this knowledge through a variety of means: radio, print journalism, television and the Internet. Thus, the media makes national politics possible. Without mass media, candidates would only be able to run at the local level, where they could communicate personally with the electorate. Media makes it possible for voters to familiarize themselves with candidates and platforms even when they are far away.
It Reinforces Already Formed Opinions One way that mass media help shape public opinion is to reinforce already shaped opinions. Sometimes someone can have a doubt about a topic. This means that they have an opinion that is not solidly grounded. When they tune into mass media such as the television, radio or newspaper, they may find their ungrounded opinion in these media sources. They then uses these sources to reinforce already held beliefs.
Mass Media Reawakens Latent Opinion Mass media has a way of awakening latent opinions. Someone may have opinions that are not active. It takes an event to awaken them and summon the person to take action. This is especially seen during an election year. During an election, mass media causes many people to take action on latent opinions. By broadcasting the news, mass media awakens many people to activate their political alliances and in some cases contribute money to these political causes. Without mass media, these same people may not be inspired to take any action at all.
Mass Media Shares Public Opinion One powerful aspect of mass media is that it lets others know what their neighbors are thinking. Without mass media, the ubiquitous survey that shares public opinion wouldn't be as prevalent. Going back to the election example, mass media works by letting other voters know how their neighbors may vote. Sometimes knowing how others may vote sways opinion. Mass media plays a powerful role in shaping election results. This is an undeniable fact. This is why, during election years, politicians spend an enormous amount of money on commercials. They know that these commercials serve to shape public opinion. When public opinion is positively shaped in their favor, people cast votes in their favor.
Mass Media Helps Those in Need Mass media has a positive influence on public opinion when it helps those in need. Sometimes during a natural disaster, the public does not understand the breadth and depth of it. Mass media serves as a positive force by spreading the word and images of the full impact of the disaster. Without mass media, the public would not know how great the suffering is because they are not present in the midst of the natural disaster. They may know that there is suffering but the full extent is revealed to them only through mass media sources. This helps raise money and provide necessities for those who are affected by the natural disaster.