How Media Coverage Is Changing Your Perception of Presidential Debates

Tonight, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will take the stage for their first direct debate. However, the media coverage you watch later may have a stronger impact on how you perceive candidates later on.

As political news site Vox explains, historically, debate has not always been the strongest influence on election outcomes. Since the televised debate began, most polls have shown little change after they aired (and when they do, it’s unclear if the debate was a cause or just a coincidence). On the other hand, how the media covers a debate can have a huge impact on how these viewers perceive the outcome of the debate.

This can happen because even if journalists try to report on events with an open mind, they still tend to focus on just a few “moments.” Two candidates who respectfully disagree and express their point of view are not nearly as interesting as an oversight or “clapping.” Journalists sharing an event together can also create unconscious bias:

Now, depending on how high your media rating is, you might think that the media’s view of what happened will have at least some resemblance to what actually happened. But the media often chooses to be distracted and focus only on a few “moments” of a 90-minute event. And groupthink can be a powerful force, especially when all journalists follow each other’s Twitter feed.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Often times, parts of the discussion become “moments” because they are worth talking about, and there is nothing wrong with journalists weighing the topic that everyone is discussing. It’s important to know, though, that if you’re only testing a debate through the eyes of a news organization, you’re probably only getting a piece of the story. Today’s debate will be available to stream for free on the Internet (and today we’ll write you how), so if you want to know how it really went, check it out for yourself.

Does the presidential debate matter? Here is the evidence for political science. | Vox


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