How Do Mass Media Influence Public Opinion?

Updated: Jul 31

Mass media has come to play a huge role in our daily lives; this is something that has been more noticeable than ever during the Coronavirus pandemic, with millions of people turning to the media for information on the virus. But how do mass media influence public opinion?🤔🤔


Mass media can affect many aspects of human life, as Wikipedia tells us. This includes, but is not limited to, influencing the way people vote, changing the way someone thinks about a topic, or providing us with information we may not have had access to without the mass media.


Encyclopaedia Britannica says that despite potentially having less impact on public opinion than our social environments, the mass media is still hugely significant in shaping our core beliefs. The media focus our attention on a particular individual or event, and from this reporting, public opinion begins to form. Makes sense, right?💡💡


Read our post on 5 media monitoring tools for tech entrepreneurs here.


AGENDA-SETTING

According to The Quad, the agenda-setting theory is one of the primary ways in which the mass media influence public opinion. The theory basically says that the more something is covered by the mass media, the more the audience will regard the issue as important – particularly if it’s an issue being widely covered by national news outlets.📰📰


Agenda-setting happens through the process of accessibility. Accessibility means that the more frequently and prominently an issue is covered, the more it will stick in the audience’s mind, and that’s how it begins to shape public opinion. It essentially creates a lasting memory of the mass media’s perspective of a topic, and this then has a powerful impact on what a person’s own opinion becomes of that topic.


Read about how to raise your profile online and in the media here.



SHAPING OUR POLITICAL BELIEFS

The mass media are central to politics in the sense that they can influence our political beliefs to an enormous extent, which links back to the agenda-setting theory – the more a political party or figure is covered in a certain light by the mass media, the more public opinion will be shaped by this perception. It is often said that the mass media are the “fourth branch of government” in democratic countries. 📈📈


The mass media are particularly effective at affirming existing political beliefs; this is because people often follow a certain source of mass media which they believe to be aligned with their core beliefs, and as a result, their political beliefs begin to develop according to what is fed to them by this source. Audiences tend to trust what the press are telling them, and therefore they feel comfortable growing their beliefs based on what the media sources report on.

Find out 8 ways to make tech startups more visible in the media here.


Problems can arise when mass media outlets back one particular political party, as this can lead to immense bias and therefore shape public opinion to unfairly advantage a particular party or individual. For example, as Democratic Audit tells us, in the UK many of the major press sources support the Conservative Party, whereas far fewer support the Labour Party or any of the other political parties, meaning that the Conservatives have a strong advantage in that they are more likely to be shown in a positive light than their competitors are.💼💼


So how do we remove the problem of bias from the mass media? The best way to do so is to have news sources which are publicly-owned, such as the BBC, as this means that they are held at arm's length from any particular political party’s influence. This allows them to maintain a non-biased opinion, and is the best way of painting a true picture to the general public, says the International Journalists’ Network, as it allows people to form an opinion based off an impartial view, meaning there is far less manipulation of public opinion than there may be in privately-owned press.


About the author

Lola is a copywriter and journalist trainee who has written on topics ranging from travel to marketing. She recently graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Hispanic Studies, and is going on to study a Masters in International Journalism. Lola speaks 4 languages and has lived in 4 countries. Her personal travel and lifestyle blog has over 6,000 all-time views.

Find Lola on LinkedIn here.





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