Voting is the backbone of American democracy, and the media plays a powerful role in many individuals’ voting patterns. Numerous media companies push their political agendas and will go to great lengths to prove their point, even if it means giving out inaccurate or biased information.

In wake of the 2016 presidential election, there has been concern about how great of an impact the media had on the election; specifically social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Individuals can post content online without any question of political bias or inaccurate information, instantly getting millions of views from a public audience. Individuals without political backgrounds or expert knowledge will regard information from these social media pages and influential news outlets as true, making them easily persuaded and manipulated.

Fake news was prevalent throughout the election, with the majority of it biased towards Trump. That means that more people were exposed to pro-Trump articles, which could persuade gullible and naive viewers to vote for him. Furthermore, Trump used more modern campaign methods which reached a larger audience, thus gaining him more exposure compared to Hillary Clinton, who stuck to more traditional campaign methods. With this information considered, I can conclude that the media had a considerable influence in the 2016 election, resulting in the unexpected election of Donald Trump.

Fox News is known for being one of the most conservative news outlets in the media and had an influential role in the 2016 election. Their viewer base largely outnumbers liberal news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC. Over the course of the election they gained so much popularity that during election month, “Fox News Channel was the most-watched basic cable channel.” In fact, Fox News was so compelling for some that “[it] convinced between 3 and 8 percent of its non-Republican viewers to vote Republican, depending on the specification. The more restrictive audience measures imply persuasion effects between 11 and 28 percent.” Fox News constantly focuses on Trump’s political agenda and portrays a different perspective of Trump that has been masked by other prominent liberal news outlets. For example, Fox News portrays Trump as a virtuous and innocent individual, by mitigating all of his scandals and exaggerating all of Clinton’s scandals, resulting in the viewer having an inclination to sympathize with Trump. By watching Fox News, viewers were coerced to vote for Donald Trump, showing how sizable of an impact Fox News had on the election.

The frequent viewership of fake news also had a significant influence in the 2016 presidential election. In a research paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the authors created a fake news database and “record[ed] 41 pro-Clinton (or anti-Trump) and 115 pro-Trump (or anti-Clinton) articles, which were shared on Facebook a total of 7.6 million and 30.3 million times, respectively. Thus, there are about three times more fake pro-Trump articles than pro-Clinton articles, and the average pro-Trump article was shared more on Facebook than the average pro-Clinton article.” With “[t]wo-thirds of Facebook users (66%) [getting their] news on the site,” many people are exposed to fake articles that are pro-Trump compared to fake articles that are pro-Clinton. This constant subjection to fake pro-Trump articles had the potential sway a Facebook user’s vote. Now some may say that this only matters if people believed these articles, and an Ipsos poll found that “people who cite Facebook as a major source of news are more likely to view fake news headlines as accurate than those who rely less on the platform for news.” Not only are pro-Trump fake news headlines getting an immense amount of exposure compared to pro-Clinton headlines on Facebook, but the majority of the people viewing them believe that these articles are accurate and error-free. With thousands of people undoubting false Pro-Trump information on Facebook, one’s view of Trump could be distorted, resulting in a vote that could be solely based on deceitful news.

During the 2016 election, Trump was at an advantage campaigning wise due to his excessive use of Twitter to connect to others and manage his public image. Over the course of the election, Trump developed a well-known Twitter presence, and his “tweets have been retweeted a total of 12 million times – twice as many as Clinton’s, which have been retweeted 5.5 million times.” Donald Trump’s excessive utilization of Twitter throughout his campaign gave him an advantage over Clinton audience wise because she stuck to more traditional ways of campaigning, such as rallying.

More people have Twitter accounts and internet access compared to the number of people able to attend political rallies, thus allowing Trump to communicate with people on a larger-scale than Clinton. Furthermore, Trump’s impulsive and unfiltered tweets gained him more exposure because of its uncommon temperament of someone running for president. Trump’s constant use of Twitter enabled users to interact with him, causing a distorted sense of connection between Trump and his viewers. A person will feel that they have more of a connection with a candidate if they can interact with them, whether it be in real life or on social media, compared to just seeing the candidate on television. This connection could be a crucial element in an individual’s vote, thus giving Trump the upper-hand in this situation.

Trump’s media attention was considerably greater than Clinton’s during the 2016 election

Additionally, “[d]uring the election, Trump got about 50% more coverage than Clinton across all media but outdid her by 150% on Twitter. The platform delivered $402 million in free attention for Trump and $166 million for Clinton.” With his uncut and emotional tweets, he gained much more media attention compared to Clinton, whose tweets were thought out and edited. Even though Trump received a lot of negative attention on Twitter when people retweeted and commented about his tweets, people who weren’t exposed to him before will now recognize him throughout the election, thus giving Trump publicity that he worked to his benefit. Conclusively, Trump’s use of Twitter as a popular campaign method resulted in more exposure compared to Clinton, thus allowing him to have a greater influence on his public perception.

The media played a pivotal role in the 2016 presidential election, resulting in the unanticipated election of Donald Trump. Fox News took advantage of viewers’ emotions and unconscious biases by dramatizing any negative thing Clinton was involved with and painting Trump as a victim of liberal media. Additionally, Donald Trump’s excessive use of Twitter and preposterous tweets gave him a considerable amount of attention, giving Trump an edge over Clinton, who stuck to more conventional campaign methods. Trump’s Twitter allowed many people to easily interact with him, giving the user a false sense of connection with Trump. Fake news throughout the election was targeted at individuals who weren’t politically aware, which affected their view on both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

By concluding that the media had a significant influence in the 2016 presidential election, I urge others to be conscious of questionable news sites and media figures. One imperative step to take is to teach people how to identify fake news. Instead of censoring theatrical media sensations such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, people should be taught about the warning signs of when someone is melodramatizing the news, or when a news article is fake. This should start at a young age, and be integrated into school curriculums nationwide. With this, the influence of fake and exaggerated news over an individual’s voting pattern will diminish, and a person will be able to make a better and more objective judgment of presidential candidates.

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

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