Media in the US Election: Were Americans Pushed Towards Obama?

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, my flatmates and I spotted dedicated Americans running down our street loudly chanting “Obama 2014”!  While the excited bunch may have been a bit confused about the year, there was no mistaking the pride and pure joy that accompanied the news of President Barack Obama’s re-election. As those of you who watched the US election coverage may have noticed, this open support of Obama was not limited to eager college students. Favouritism was easily identifiable in the broadcasts of countless media outlets, both in America and abroad.

Image courtesy of Barack Obama, © 2012, some rights reserved.

The idea of media bias in the United States is not a new concept. American news networks, newspapers, and radio stations tend to lean towards either the left or right, with some even at the far ends of the spectrum. During this past campaign season, Obama pointed out the conservative bias of Fox News. In the early stages of the 2008 US presidential election, Fox reported stories on Democrats, of which 24 per cent were positive and 37 per cent were negative. Contrarily, the network’s stories on Republicans were 32 percent positive and 21 percent negative. Nonetheless, Fox’s conservative opinions, which the network makes no effort in hiding, happen to be the minority.

A majority of modern-day media is decidedly liberal. Though they attempted to appear more moderate, the political preferences of the left-leaning networks (like CNN, NBC and ABC) were quite distinguishable during this election season. Fox News claims that the mainstream media tipped the election in favour of Obama. Through things like skimming over the economy (a point of weakness for the President) and the implementation of an inaccurate fact-checking system of Republican claims, Fox believes the media unfairly influenced American voters.

On Tuesday, as the margin between Obama and Romney’s electoral votes continued to grow, networks like CNN and MSNBC predicted the victory of Obama before the counting of votes was finalised. The networks did a satisfactory job trying to make the actual prediction a matter of fact rather than opinion. However, harsh, conservative reactions to Obama’s re-election resulted in reporters like Brian Williams (anchor of NBC’s evening news program) responding with obvious distaste.

Though the liberal bias in American media during the election was generally apparent, networks still claimed their reports were objective. International media outlets on the other hand, did not attempt to hide their disdain for Governor Mitt Romney. While watching the BBC News coverage, I saw only a handful of Romney supporters, all of whom were given limited speaking time. When interviewing a member of the Nevada Republican Party, the BBC reporter asked whether the man believed “it was still worth trying”. This obvious bias towards Obama was reinforced with several interviews with Obama supporters and frequent insight from a BBC reporter stationed in Obama’s Chicago headquarters. In addition, BBC’s portrayal of news regarding the election was always in a manner favourable towards Obama. For example, when electoral votes were awarded to either candidate, BBC would always show which states Obama needed to win in order to be re-elected.

BBC’s display of favouritism was initially quite shocking, but after seeing the general world reaction to the election, the UK media could be considered relatively tame. Networks from all over the world openly demonstrated their preference of Obama over Romney, many of them not holding back their harsh opinions. In Norway and Germany, the question of why Romney was even running was brought into question. All throughout Africa, leaders of nations continuously referred to Obama as an outstanding man and the obvious choice. The only regions that seemed to prefer Romney were Pakistan and certain areas in the Middle East, which are small portions of the global community.

The 2012 US presidential election depicted the prevalence of media bias in not only the United States, but also throughout the international community. The liberal bias displayed by American media can be attributed to the personal views of reporters seeping into their reporting of political events. I can understand how difficult it can be to separate one’s personal political views from their work, especially considering the passionate issues that this election addressed. However, it also is plausible that the unintentional bias of the American media, both conservative and liberal, influenced American voters, since many of them rely on news reports to make political decisions. On a global level, it was clear that the conservative policies of Romney were highly unfavourable to the international community. Romney’s campaign did not place enough emphasis on shaping foreign policy, and media outlets all around the world picked up on this. The influence of media bias upon this election cannot be denied. Globalisation has led to a growing prevalence of media in society, and media bias is an aspect of international interconnectedness that we must accept.  With these next four years, we can only hope that the favouritism displayed through media bias was rightfully placed.

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