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Richard D. Anderson

Associate professor of political science, University of California, Los Angeles


By covering the 'horse race' instead of the issues, the media encourage people to believe that politicians place self-interest above the public interest. The media also affect which issues people consider important, and negative advertisements discourage political participation. People learn from the media only because they know so little about politics. Were democracy deliberative, these media effects would undermine it. But democracy is not a deliberation but a contest that relies on the ability of the media to shape public opinion. The evidence for media effects is strong, but the media cannot be undermining a form of democracy that does not and cannot exist, and they do sustain the form that does.

Sep. 01, 1998 - from "The Place of the Media in Popular Democracy", an essay published in Critical Review, Fall 1998