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                       “If the American people heard these stories..."

The American people deserve accurate information, not only about Iraq. 

Most of the latest research validates our suspicions regarding the importance
of mass media.  And beyond that validation, the research also give us some
understanding of what tactics and methods might be most effective.       tmf


                   Discussion of research and critical insights regarding:  
 Political Communication, Social Change, & Civic Commitment
   A review by Timothy Flanagan 

1.  Is there a relationship between communication and political knowledge?
     Mass and interpersonal communications are found to influence political knowledge.
     This perception is substantiated by research.  Our efforts are not in vain.   
 

2.  What are the cumulative and complementary effects of news media use?
     Mass media has a primary effect upon  the voting public.  A varied exposure
     to several media has both cumulative and complementary effects upon cognition
.   
   

3.  How newspapers and television news cover campaigns and influence voters.
      Do newspapers matter when it comes to politics?   A number of recent studies
      suggest that the unique contribution of newspapers in creating an informed
      electorate is minimal, at best.  Television news certainly has little substance,
      but the impact of delivery of information via multiple sensory inputs might
      mitigate this difference.  But, in the long run, those who read the news are
      still generally better informed.  Television news viewing, in spite of the sensory
      impact, has little effect on issues learning.  But the internet and cable-television
      are certainly more useful than broadcast TV, and they may in time provide a
      complementary factor for the quality and quantity of newspaper information.
      Newspapers may not be a universal remedy for all political ills, but they remain
      a realistic and viable option for voters to learn certain types of information.


4.  Issue-related learning in campaigns.
      It is a matter of conjecture as to how much information and knowledge is
     "sufficient" for individuals to fulfill their civic responsibilities.  But the
      data in the Duke University study would indicate that campaigns are
      "blunt instruments."  It is misguided to assume that media campaigns
      can raise new or complicated issues or provide deeper understanding
      of standing issues.
  Newspaper and television news exposure can even
      have a negative impact on learning about issues.  Ads have little effect.
      Issues learning can and does take place, but negative campaigning
      can often be more effective than purely factual information campaigns.  

      
5.  Revisiting, resolving, and expanding fundamental issues about political education.
      The central question in these studies is how media aid citizens in becoming better
      informed voters.
The study is at a crossroads between communication and
      political science.  Communication focuses on processes of influence, while
      political science focuses on outcomes.  Communication certainly leads to
      knowledge, but conclusions about the specific role of media are still uncertain.
      Political communication is about to become part of a revolution defined by
      the new digital media.  Digital media will function alongside other forms,
      and more analysis needs to be done to determine the differential effects of these
      new forms. 
 

6.  Why political information matters.
      People who know more about politics differ from those who know less.  But it
      remains to be determined how this "difference" may matter.  Often poorly-
      informed voters emulate the behavior of the well-informed.  But it is clear
      that more informed individuals are more consistent with their values.
     
If values do matter, then informed voters are essential.  As we learn more
      about how voters process the variable media forms, we can better
      predict optimal methods for inculcating civic commitment to
      the quality and integrity of our democracy.

7.  Effective political communication.
      So, how can we more effectively communicate information to voters in the next
      election cycle? 
"The pervasiveness of mass media and their virtual monopoly
      over the presentation of many kinds of information must suggest .... enormous
      social and political consequences,... (but) the scholarly literature has been much
      better at refuting, qualifying, and circumscribing the thesis of media impact than
      at supporting it. "  (Bartels, 1993 p. 267)2 
      ~~~ Many uncertainties remain, but much progress has been made. 
 
      Campaign learning is a function of exposure to newspapers, television news
      programs, candidate debates,  and campaign ads (negative ads more than
      positive; of intramedia effects and interpersonal media discussion; of candidate
      or party voter contact activities; and of various personal characteristics  (such as
      education and prior knowledge) that can facilitate or inhibit learning
.  We are
      constantly learning more about the variable effects of these factors.


References: 
1. Political communication, Editor David L. Paletz at Duke University, Volume 22, Number 4, 2005
2. Bartels, L. M.  (1993).  Messages received:  The political impact of media exposure. American Political
    Science Review,
87, 267-285.
                                                           

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