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The Divide & Conquer Election of 2012


Edited By Dianne G. Bystrom, Mary C. Banwart and Mitchell S. McKinney

alieNATION presents research conducted by a national election team and leading scholars in political communication that explores a range of important topics and variables affecting voter attitudes and behavior in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
In exploring the messages, issues, and voters of the 2012 election, these studies employ multiple methods including experimental design, content analysis, rhetorical criticism, and survey research. Whereas other election research tends to investigate either the content or effects of campaign communication, the more comprehensive and systematic nature of this collection enables alieNATION to cohere thematically around considerations of voter alienation, political engagement, political efficacy, and ultimately, citizens’ voting decisions.
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Chapter One: Framing the 2012 Presidential Election on U.S. Television: Candidates, Issues, and Sources


← 14 | 15 → CHAPTER ONE


Television’s role in American elections has been the subject of much scholarly attention since its initial introduction in the late 1940s. The expectations at that time for this great “new medium” were high: It was said to have the potential to reinvigorate American politics and raise the level of political knowledge and interest among the general public. Although these expectations may have yet to be fulfilled, there is no doubt that television has allowed people to become first-hand observers of political history and has brought politicians’ images and messages into the homes of ordinary Americans. Television today remains the main source of news for the public and, simply put, has emerged as a “definer and constructor of political reality” (Gurevitch, Coleman, & Blumler, 2009, p. 166). The way television news frames political issues has a substantial impact on the way people make sense of the political world (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997; Iyengar, 1987; de Vreese, 2004).

How the news portrays political issues—going beyond their salience and suggesting certain moral evaluations, causal links and interpretations—is one way through which they exert influence (Entman, 1993). It has been well-documented that media framing, including the selection of the perspectives of different political actors in the news report, has tangible consequences for the public (D’Angelo & Kuypers, 2010). Indeed, how the news media frame politics has significant cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral effects that are especially important during election campaigns...

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