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The mass media role of agenda setting might not have influenced voting in totality but it did play a significantly huge role in shaping the outcome of the recent presidential elections in the USA. The myriad of issues highlighted by the candidates and the strategies of handling the issues used the media as a pipeline and mirror through which the suitability of candidates were gauged. The agenda-setting role extrapolated issues of direct concern to the voters, mostly focusing on economic stability, racial and gender orientations, taxation, health care system, military spending and the future of America (Alison & Hanson 2009). Though insight and objectivity was manipulated as is the political dime, the media's paramount role instigated informed voters, probably swinging them to the eventual winner.
Drawing from media contribution, debate on personalities of the candidates and their lifestyles evoked anger, appreciation or wooed support. The maverick nature of the Republican candidates (Senator McCain and Sarah Palin) and their purported competence in office was juxtaposed against the relative inexperience of Obama (Mehdi, 2008). Indeed, it was all through the media calling that Sarah Palin was extensively highlighted as an expensive and lavish spender, drawing criticism on the use of campaign funds on assorted goods and expensive fashion designs (Balz & Haynes 2009). On the part of Obama, the media featured a speculative feud between him and Hillary Clinton, and probably set the mood for the conventions. Thus, the media candidly extrapolated their role and stance as the agenda setters, informing major points of discussion and probably pointing out the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the contenders.
The electorate was swayed by the ideals and promises of the contenders. The war in Afghanistan, economic stability and the immediate need to salvage the falling fortunes of the mortgage sector had enormous postulations of the stability of the nation. Needless to say, the populace would need to gauge the candidates properly in the realms of practicality and ability to turn the fortunes of the American nation (viewed as dwindling at an alarming rate by many) and restore its pride as the leading democracy in the world (Abramowitz, 2008). The electorate, through the media ought to identify the best placed candidate, the person to row the boat and steer clear of the murky waters of uncertainty and deliver economic stability and growth.
The war in Afghanistan was viewed as an unnecessary burden on the tax payer, let alone the number of lives lost out there. The dwindling economy could not support a comprehensive health cover for a populace short of financial muscle to establish reliable medical cover on its own. In addition, focus on the failing policies of the incumbent administration, led by President Bush, meant uncertainty over taxation. Through agenda setting, the media was able to deal with issues surfacing from racial or gender bias, thus portraying to the electorate an imaginary picture of their own creation.
Interestingly, the economic meltdown of the mortgage industry would prove a deciding factor especially in the swing states. Lurking uncertainty over the clear winner in a state makes it a swing or battleground state. Swing states require devotion of time, money, energy and advertising efforts ostensibly to lure the electorate in their favor. Swing state are determined by previous voting trends, the historical prevalence of preference, the state of origin of the candidates, the race of the candidates as exemplified in the 2008 elections and, the results of opinion polls. As such during the elections, the swing states were majorly a focus on race and intuition and commitment to delivering the stable future and prosperity of America (Zahid, 2008).
Eventually, the battle in the swing states was won or lost in tandem to the economic promises as during the election time; fear was mounting on the lurking dangers of an economy gone awry. States such as Ohio, largely viewed as a swing/purple state had its choice dictated by the inevitable; an administration willing to handle he issues of economic instability, refinancing the housing sector, providing security to millions of home owners and commitment to creating jobs in the face of protracted imminent job losses.
The media also played a significant role as they portrayed Obama as more presidential and focused on him positively against his Republican opponent McCain whose popularity was dwindling (Zahid, 2008). Obama's commitment to solving an immediate and alarming economic crisis impacted hugely on the swing states, informed by and large in the extensive policies of the candidates via the media. Perhaps the selectivity of the media pushed to a great extent his worldwide population as his addresses outside America (specifically Germany) were watched and applauded for precision and exquisiteness by many, raising his ratings in the opinion polls (Abramowitz, 2008).
It is vital to applaud the varied media streams for the agenda setting and enlightening role in the elections. The media should be credited for the voter registration campaigns and awareness coupled with their efforts to urge people to vote. In their role as information sources, the media did splendidly well and played a significant role in ensuring all members of the populace; old, young, middle-aged; remained informed (Alison & Hanson 2009). This can be exemplified by the incredible numbers of people who watched the convention speeches of Barrack Obama and Sarah Palin which to date stand at the highest. The media frenzy could have prompted such avenues, but political awareness, intelligence and tact eventually ran victor.
To conclude, the impartiality of the media ought to be questioned. Appreciating their role as agenda steers, the focus on the weak points cannot be questioned, but the media can be accused of biasness in the latter stages (Alison & Hanson 2009). This includes humor segments which were aired with huge chunks of the composition drawing from one side of the candidature, specifically the republicans. This definitely gave some competitive edge to the Democrats. The media was carried away and could not contain themselves and thus failed in impartiality and scored high in objective biasness.