Media & Politics


Agenda Setting: Kennedy Covington

Media Effects and Politics

Dina E., Kennedy C., Emily J., Rob D., Laura M. Continue reading “Media Effects and Politics”

Opinion Leaders: Does Their Opinion Really Matter?

By: Kennedy Covington


The influence of opinion leaders

Opinion Leaders Set the Agenda

If the agenda setting theory is the idea that the media tells the public what to think about, then how does that content reach the public… through opinion leaders. This is part of the Two Step flow model which proposes that the media is heard by opinion leaders who pass on information to their followers.


The Institute of Education Sciences reported on the different medium forms that they received its information. After gathering extensive data on opinion leaders it reported:

  • medium: in radio, television, magazines, newspapers, and Interpersonal communication “political opinion leaders receive more information about candidates from _____(medium form) than do nonleaders”
  • age: “political opinion leadership is greater for middle aged persons than for young or old persons”
  • sex: “the incidence of political opinion leadership is greater for males than for females”

After researchers collected this data they concluded the significance of this information for the media regarding campaigns stating:

  1. campaigns should inform, influence, and carefully choose opinion leaders to in turn relay a specific message to the public
  2. newspapers, televisions, and interpersonal communication are more efficient than radio, and magazines in educating voters about politics
  3. campaigns should target males between 31-35 years old as this group encompasses the majority of opinion leaders

Social Media, Opinion Leaders, & The Agenda


Social Media: The New Opinion Leader?

As society becomes more entwined with technology the role of social media continues to grow. Many argue that social media is taking the role of opinion leaders today by and conclude:

  • social media like opinion leaders sway their audience to believe information presented and consequently behave certain ways
  • advertisers target social media similarly to opinion leaders, to pass along information to their target groups

Another article published in the International Communication Gazette reported a similar yet broader idea deducing that mass media in general may has taken the role of opinion leaders due to our countries advanced technology. Contrastingly, an article published in The Oxford Journals argues face-to-face communication of opinion leaders is very meaningful to influence voting patterns and opinions of the public. It continues by inferring that without this face-to-face communication information held by leaders would never make it to the nonleaders.  Finally, yet another school of thought argues opinion leaders transmit information to different groups among different social boundaries.  

As the to who opinion leaders actually are and the role they play is unclear, it is changing along side media. Opinion leaders determine how political messages and politicians are viewed which impacts who the public ultimately votes for.



Agenda-Setting and Mass Communication Theory

How is Social Media Playing the Role of an Opinion Leader Today

Media Consumption and Population Characteristics of Political Opinion Leaders

The Media of Mass Communication- John Vivian

The Social Capital of Opinion Leaders

Opinion Leaders in the Electorate

Television in Politics

By: Kennedy Covington

Tina Fey mocks Sara Palin mocks endorsing Donald Trump

Television’s Role in Politics 

Television has always played a major role in politics. In the 1950s, television was the role of the most popular medium that reported on political news. Even today, television plays an important role in politics whether it is advertising for candidates, reporting on political news, or covering the latest political debates.


Researchers have found the following effects of television on politics:

  • Candidates/issues emphasized on television corresponded to the voters agenda
  • Increasing number of people with negative attitudes/feelings about the political system
  • A change in political campaigning, making political advertisements the main source of communication between voters and candidates
  • When covering political debates, television reports on who is leading the polls and candidates’ tactics rather than addressing candidates views on certain issues
  • Political bias that are televised are based off of candidates’ character and personal information more so than their actual political views


Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live, a popular comedic late-night television show, is known for their short comedic skits, including many political sketches. The Huffington Post reports that some researchers believe, “’Saturday Night Live’” political skits may actually have an influence on voters.”

For example in the 2008 election Saturday Night Live did not miss a single opportunity to use Tina Fey as a doppelgänger to imitate, the former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who was running for vice president. Many believe the “I can see Russia from my house” joke many believe was said by Sarah Palin but in fact originated in an SNL skit starring Tina Fey. Other researchers have coined a new theory the “Fey Effect” which asserts, “the program led the media to skewer and heavily criticize Sarah Palin after airing a critical sketch, while the media’s coverage of her prior to the episode was mainly favorable.” The Huffington Post concludes that it may not be Saturday Night Live’s influence as much as it is exposure of the candidates on such a popular television show, which ultimately sets the agenda of what is discussed.

tina:saraTina Fey mocks Sara Palin in Katie Couric interview

Jessica Leano, a Journalism major at Elon University thinks Saturday Night Live sets the agenda using humor to bring attention to particular issues. Leano points out the “SNL Effect” claiming the show does in fact determine the public’s feelings and ideas about politics. She continues saying the “SNL Effect” will only continue to grow as these political skits become available online.


Ultimately Saturday Night Live is able to impact the political world by:

  • Convincing their audience that information presented on politics is factual
  • Determining what issues are important by spotlighting them
  • Giving some candidates/politicians more recognition by having them on the show portraying them as a main character in a skit on the show


Can’t get enough Saturday Night Live: 11 of the Best ‘Saturday Night Live’ Political Sketches



Political Processes and Television

The Agenda-Setting Power of Saturday Night Live

‘Saturday Night Live’ Political Skits May Sway The Presidential Election

Social Media & Agenda Setting Theory

By: Kennedy Covington

Social Media in Politics


As technology is woven more and more into society, the ability to communicate has become more accessible and convenient via social media.  Given Internet access, nearly anyone can communicate their ideas and opinions to a mass audience within seconds. Politicians have found a way to utilize social media to communicate and interact with voters. They are able to focus their audience’s attention on topics of their choice by choosing what topics to address and those to ignore. In mass communication, the ability to use media to focus attention without explicitly telling the audience what to think is called agenda setting.


The Department of Media and Communications at the University of Oslo in Norway came to 3 main conclusions on the impact of social media on politics:

  1. Politicians mainly use social media as a marketing tactic rather than interacting with potential voters
  2. Social media content is directly related to ongoing debates in the media while debates in the media cover issues addressed on social media
  3. Social media’s impact on politics is geographically linked due to demographic differences


Twitter’s Role in Politics 


Researchers studied the role Twitter played in the 2011 Norwegian Election. They were able to deduce Twitter is more news media as opposed to social media since approximately 85% of Twitter content is related to news topics. Furthermore, researchers were able to confirm political debates cause striking peaks in Twitter activity especially when trending hashtags and retweets allow for further civic engagement.

One of the most important findings showed “Twitter users scrutinize the agenda set by mainstream media and the politicians, and the discussion about the debate is equally present as discussions about the political topics of the debate.” This shows that politicians can easily use social media to guide conversation topics.

One politician who notoriously uses social media to control what people should talk about is Donald Trump. The New York Times reports on “How Donald Trump Mastered Twitter for 2016” stating he was discussed in nearly 6.3 million Twitter conversations. Trump is very aware of his affect on social media when he spoke on deleting tweets, “One of the things I do find is that when you delete it, it becomes a bigger story than having it.” He has the ability to use Twitter to ignite controversial conversations in less than 140 characters.  The ability for politicians and gatekeepers to use social media to control what is discussed is endless and only further solidifies the power of social media in today’s society.


Social Media and Election Campaigns

Twitter use during televised election debates in Norway

How Donald Trump Mastered Twitter for 2016

The Media of Mass Communication– John Vivian


Blog at

Up ↑