The media often justify election coverage by arguing that a critical democracy requires a well-informed public. Unfortunately, their reporting often repeats long-standing myths about politics that undermine this worthy goal.
Here are 10 of the most obvious myths.
1. The most important thing for voters is the quality of the candidate.
In this era of celebrity, name recognition is more important than material accomplishments. There’s no other explanation for Donald Trump’s electoral success, Kari Lake, J.D. Vance, Mehmet Oz’s candidacy, and Kanye West and Dwayne Johnson’s contemplation of future candidacy. Many voters accept celebrities either to gain proxy status or because celebrities express long-held beliefs.
2022 Election: What to Know Before You Vote in York County
Pollsters train for conflict: ‘Are you a little nervous? I am.’
‘Waiting for Pennsylvania’: Why the race for US Senators drags past election night
2. Voters prefer candidates who exhibit bipartisanship.
Future voters often express chagrin about politicians failing to “get along.” Still, they mostly vote for the primary candidate that reflects their most polarizing stance. Candidates react accordingly even after winning.
3. Voters like positive messages from candidates.
Voters also frequently lament attack ads that combine half-truths about their opposition with horrifying images and ominous music. However, research shows that most voters respond to negative ads more than positive ones.
4. Voters pay attention to candidates’ records on issues.
Candidate websites contain detailed views on a wide range of issues, but there is little evidence that voters carefully examine these websites. In fact, voters barely notice any change in a candidate’s position, except on a few issues they already care about.
5. Voters care about the future.
Some candidates tackle long-term issues such as the national debt, the fate of Social Security and Medicare, and the future of our planet. However, voters are focusing on short-term concerns, such as petrol prices and deep-seated issues like abortion. To some extent, this reflects how the media treats the issue.
6. Voters will evaluate candidates using similar criteria.
While they argue that moral integrity favors candidates whose commitment to “family values” reflects voters’ For example, feminists endorsed Bill Clinton. Evangelicals still support Donald Trump. But less popular politicians often suffer voter wrath for less egregious transgressions.
7. Voters who identify as independent are more informed and less partisan.
Given the growing importance of primaries in determining who ultimately wins political office, declaring oneself “independent” is increasingly a form of virtue signaling. States without “open primaries” render independents politically irrelevant, but both parties ease their previous positions in order to attract votes. Independents are as partisan as any other voter. They differ only in the combination of partisan issues.
8. Women’s votes, black votes, Jewish votes, etc.
The media frequently report how votes for a particular group are split among candidates, and pay great attention to the changing voting patterns of these blocs. After the election, they’ll twist into an analytical pretzel and explain why so many women voted for Donald Trump. White men without college education voted for Barack Obama but not for Hillary Clinton. And why Latinos take conservative positions on abortion and immigration. The myth that identity is equated with ideology is no longer surprising, as it has often been disproved.
9. Debates influence election results.
Since the Kennedy and Nixon debates, the assumption that these events will affect the outcome of close elections has remained a sacred truth in American politics. , spends a good deal of time rehearsing rhetorical ginger. In some cases, we deliberately set the bar for candidates so low that inconsistency is a “win” (see Herschel Walker). However, the debate had less impact on the election than viewers did on “Dancing with the Stars,” especially if it took place after early voting began.
10. No voting sends a powerful political message.
Indifference, cynicism, or knowingly choosing not to vote out of the belief that voting makes no difference is just another version of virtue signaling. What’s particularly tragic is that the groups most likely not to vote (younger, lower-income, less-educated people) are the groups most affected by the outcome of the election. Some campaigns are trying to “get the vote” by registering, but they’re primarily targeting would-be voters and tailoring their messages accordingly.
— Michael Reisch has conducted and consulted political campaigns at the local, state, and national levels, and has written and taught on political and social activism at six major universities.