The specific emotion motivates a person to a particular activity, thus affecting the behavior. This implies another way of dealing with the emotions of voters, through the characteristics of an emotional response (in our case, disapproval, mistrust to the ruling party, disappointment in the election mechanisms’ transparency). Given the strong influence of emotions on behavior, the increased impact on the emotional sphere of voters is most often practiced in the last two weeks before the election, as we can see on the example of both election campaigns shown in “Uncounted: the New Math of American Elections”ť. To get an emotional response from the voters, the properties of which are described above, the so-called “programming”ť emotional impact is used by the media means, which will be discussed further in this paper in details.
On a whole, since the establishment of mass media as a participant of the electoral process, there have appeared vivid discussions in the scientific world about the role they play in shaping political preferences of voters. How, why, and to what extent do media shape our political world? This issue has always been relevant in the societies of stable democracy.
In particular, through the media (especially television), emotional statements, opinions, estimates of people about politics are demonstrated. There occurs the empathy with these people and the phenomenon of emotional infection comes into action. Large numbers of people begin to feel and experience the same way. If people in the media make emotional positive evaluations, a significant portion of the public will show similar estimates. The greater the authority of the author of emotional expressions is among the voters, the more impact it will have.
On a whole, the media, especially television, create a symbolic world which is perceived by viewers as the real one (Gerbner, 2002). In relation to election campaigns, speaking in terms of “cultivation theory”ť, the analysis of contents and occurrence frequency of reports concerning the formation of candidates’ images makes particular interest. Such reports undoubtedly have a direct impact on the outcome of the elections, because in the modern world, in order to obtain the necessary number of votes and, therefore, to get elected, a candidate should first become recognizable and memorable. Still, the role of images created by the media is far from unambiguous and varies considerably depending on the concrete political context the campaign takes place in. In particular, the “heated”ť interest of the audience can get changed by the situation of “informational satiety”ť, and the candidate, who was previously gaining popularity, may simply become “boring”ť closer to the culmination point – the voting day.
In this way, taking into account very high capability of media to influence the voters, we can see their wide opportunities to change the emotional setting of voters by changing the quantity and quality of mass media products. For example, if during the elections TV and radio channels include a lot of comedy films, comedy programs, shows, positive and life-affirming news stories in their programs, they will to a small extent, but influence the mood of the electorate. Considering the possibility of voter mood to influence the overall assessment of the socio-political events, we obtain the ability of indirect influence on the election results. However, most of these activities can only be carried out by the political forces controlling the media.
In the latest decades, one of the leading theoretical approaches to the study of media influence on political behavior is the concept of “agenda-setting”ť. From the perspective of this concept, the impact of the media on the audience bears “constructing”ť character: when the press, radio or television start paying more attention to the coverage of certain events and issues (like in case of coverage of Iraqi events or electoral machine frauds), these events and problems start being perceived by the audience as the most important and significant compared to the others. Proponents of this theory, Cheminant and Parrish (2010) in particular, argue that under the influence of messages spread through the mass media, not only the electoral behavior of voters and their attitude to certain facts are more likely to get changed, but rather the knowledge base of the audience, on the basis of which decisions are made, because when the media focus on specific issues and events performing one of their core functions, they thereby affect the priorities of the interests of the audience.
Thus, media can directly and indirectly influence the course and outcome of the election campaigns in many different ways. Under the influence of the media, a simplified, distorted and stereotyped image of the external world gets formed in the minds of individuals, which, along with the reality itself, becomes a very important factor predetermining and motivating voting behaviors. Generally, the media perform three important social functions: first, they introduce current events to the audience, playing a certain role in setting the agenda; second, they interpret the meaning of messages, thus forming perspectives events are considered from and electoral choices are made from; and, third, they play an important role in the socialization of individuals within the frameworks of prevailing cultural attitudes for further possible manipulations by the media.