The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Election Day

The main feature that caught my eye on CNN was the non-stop banner scrolling at the bottom of the screen which contains very important information. It is important because it displays information that the commentators did not cover, which is very critical to viewers. The banner also displays stats and percentages on individual races, and how many seats remain. This aspect of CNN is very key because it is very easy for the common person to make decisions and base opinions on there own instead of listening to a commentator talk.

The overall coverage of the election was presented poorly in my eyes. I feel the blue and red colors on the screen were representing the democratic and republican sides. It was as if they were showing a game or competition instead of covering a election. Of course there will always be sides within politics, but shouldn't we focus more on what is best for our country? Making so much separation between political parties divides our country in a way where I believe it is hard for the average person to form opinions and make decisions on there own. For example, thousands of people say that the Yankees are there favorite baseball team simply because they are always on top even if they know nothing about there program. This is where the television programs such as CNN needs to simplify and go in to more detail about the election instead of the dividing of two separate parties.  Max Duncan

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Election Night

On November 2, 2010 hundreds of house and senate elections took place in order to enlighten and embrace the public. The House of Representatives and a third of the Senate was up for election. After the final results were broadcasted the Democrats still controlled the Senate while the Republican Party dominated the House of Representatives. Democrats held seven less seats in the Senate then two years ago when the Republicans gained 64 seats in the House of Representatives.
One feature that CNN conveys is hypothetical situations throughout the race which is a factor of voter turnout being so low. These situations discourage most people to vote; they don’t think their vote matters. Another factor is the misrepresentation of the public opinion polls; can’t base an election turnout on polls. Public opinion polls allow people to think their candidate is projected to win or lose so they don’t vote. CNN also has the tendency to project the winners of some races right when the polls close and use scientific polling, scientific polling is how the public opinion polls are constructed. Public opinion polls are full of errors and can’t be depended on because usually they aren’t constructed properly. These polls contain three aspects to be constructed properly. First, the polls have to be representative. Second, the polls take the votes of about 1000-2000 voters to project the results of the election based on a larger scale. Finally, public opinion polls have to be random; the votes can’t be self-selected and voters can’t volunteer. Projecting the winners of some races right when the polls close and using hypothetical situations doesn’t help the voter turnout.
                Banners scrolling across the bottom of the screen, maps, graphs, and non-stop commentary are also another common characteristic shown on CNN. The graphs exposed how many seats remained and which party was dominating each the House of Representatives and Senate. The maps were bursting with red and blue color. The most common characteristic people pay attention to throughout the election is the banner scrolling on the bottom of their screen; it displays a lot of information. The banner shows how many seats remain and the percentages of individual races. Most importantly, the banner shows information about the races that the commentators didn’t talk about or go into great detail about. These characteristics shown on CNN allow the viewers and voters to determine their own opinion about the election and the coverage of the race.
                The final feature I noticed portrayed on CNN during the election was how the coverage was set up. The coverage was held with many different tables and abundant people at those tables with blinking screens on countless information behind them. This set up of the CNN coverage represented some similar to a newsroom.  While this is happening there is also the banner scrolling across the bottom of the screen informing people who won each state election. There was information being talked about, banners scrolling across the bottom of the television, and blinking screens in the background. Yes, this made the election more informative but it also increased the confusion.
                Overall CNN focused on many different elections and represented them as a whole. Although there might have been some confusion with the over load of information on the screen throughout the night and misrepresentation leading to a low number of voter turnout, CNN produced good information making the election coverage a success.
 Sierra Riasati

CNN's Cluster F*#$

When watching the coverage of the midterm elections in Meredith 106 I was struck by my inability to understand what CNN's political analysts where saying. I believe that there grouping of people at separate tables going back and fourth made it hard to pay attention to them. The scene was set where there were to many people trying to analyze the same thing. Even when CNN brings together bipartisan opinion it turns out to be a jumbled mess of people talking back and forth and not getting an actual giving me evidence to support what they are saying.

The CNN coverage on there website was much more streamlined then on there news broadcast. The website was found to be a very useful tool to watch when there talking go to be to much. They only really cared about the races that where key instead of carrying about those that I cared about. I was able on the website to cover all the races in Wisconsin which were key to me as I voted in them. I felt that in true fashion CNN didn't stress the importance of the senate race in Wisconsin and what it meant to replace a long serving senator. The news that was considered to be important was a results that where already forecasted and I felt that where of no interest to the outcome of the house and senate races.

The night overall was covered poorly by CNN's television analyst. I believe that the clean lines of the set and the colors where not enough to overcome the commentators trying to discuss what the election meant for the country. The election was a large win for the Republicans and I believe that the coverage of CNN and the way that they let analyst talk made the importance of the night less known. The tables divided with different people didn't allow for each analyst to give there opinion and that is what they where there for. I want to here what each side has to say especially because it was the opposite what the result was in 2008. The coverage was lacking and I believe that it would be better if they would treat each election the same. I liked using the website because I didn't have to here the analyst fight over the same thing, going from one table to the next. CNN allowed me to see the exit polls but from an entertainment stand point they failed miserably.

Carson Klug

A Common Goal

     The midterm elections of 2010 are described as one of the biggest and most important elections of recent history. Indeed we are in a big turning point in our history. We are slowly coming out of a recession that crippled our economy and the faith we put in our government. We currently have a president different then we are used to, whom many support and many hate. All the while our debt is increasing at an unsustainable rate, threatening with a possible double dip in our recession. With this in mind, being someone who has first hand seen how the recession can cripple businesses and lives, it would seem natural that people only want to help our President or at least seek a way to better this terrible economic situation that we are in. While watching the election coverage on multiple networks I saw something that upset me.
     While sitting in Meredith watching the elections I observed several different things. The news coverage for the most part was good, it kept us up to date on who was in the lead of the elections and up to date coverage on all breaking news. But, one thing that seemed to be off is that it didn’t really matter so much the names of who was running or what exactly they stood for. The only thing that seemed to really matter to the stations and even a lot of the people observing the news reports was two little colors, red and blue. Granted, political parties have always been in our lives and always will be, but it seems as if this was covered more as a competition between teams then an election. There was a constant ticker on the bottom for who was in the lead of the house race and for the senate race. When the election results came in the celebrations were we won or oh great they got another one. Should politics be viewed as a competition like this? Should we focus less on what team the person plays for and more on what they stand for and can do to better this nation? That seems better than just rooting for one side to win, especially when some people on that side may differ greatly from others.
     Another thing that struck me was on the cover of USA today there was a picture of Obama. In this picture, he was walking with a very distraught look on his face, in the background was pure red. I thought this did a really good job of showing the results of the election especially as portrayed by certain parts of the media. Some stations raved about the Republicans being able to stop the Obama agenda while others talked about how this was going to ruin everything he has worked for. It is strange that it has to be that way. Where the Democrats and the Republicans have the mindset of having to stop one and other in order to save the country. I hope with the different parties now in control of different parts of government, that they can find some degree of cooperation. Because, if instead on moving forward they just try to counter each other’s goals, it would not result in anything good for this country. However, if they do indeed cooperate, both parties could come to an agreement on policies to better the country’s ailing economy, they could really do some good.
     It will be interesting to see where this new set of leaders in our government will take us. Will we take a turn for the better, working to create a better future, or will we squabble in our differences and end up hurting the country even more. It will be interesting to see what happens.  –Travis Ormsby

Election Gameday

                November 2nd, 2010 was Election Day here in America.  Many people are eager for the final the results as they wait in hope that the person they voted for is successful in the polls.  There was much news coverage on just about every news station out there. 
                As I watched CNN and a number of other news stations I examined all the graphics on the screen trying to figure out what it all meant.  As I started to understand the thought of how much this whole day is like game day for a sport.  People wearing colors for the party in which they support, at the bottom of the screen it shows results of elections in other states just as a sports station would.  The more I thought about this the more this whole election just seems like a game.  Who can control the most seats in the house and senate?  Politicians are filling our heads with negativity of the opponent running against them.  I feel like this whole day was just like game day and I feel like the news stations did not help the case. 
                The stations had a counter on the bottom of the screen that showed how close either side was to controlling the house or the senate.  The backgrounds of the news stations have many fancy T.V.s that displayed the results when they would come in.  They had many reporters from all the different states gathering information and interviewing people.  Every so often when a politician would win, they would televise their acceptance speech and them thanking their supporters. 
                I feel like politics has been turned into a game then people working together to create a better country.  It seems like all everyone cares about is what party you are, whether you support blue or red.  I feel like people need to get back to the real purpose of making the country a better place.  With the republicans controlling the house it will be interesting seeing what progress will be made in the years to come.
Alex Kaster

Not So Bipartisan After All...

When Americans went to flip on coverage of last Tuesday’s election night results, it’s safe to say that quite a few of them probably flipped on CNN.  And for good reason—CNN has fantastic technology and a diverse group of commentators at its disposal, not to mention its self-proclaimed bipartisan viewpoint.  However, when the backdrop of their election coverage is analyzed, an argument can be made that the appearance was quite polarizing in nature.  This setting—along with many other aspects of the coverage—created a distinctly partisan feel to the coverage that mirrors the state of politics in America today.
            The backdrop of CNN’s coverage was a blend of blue and red scenery.  While at first this simply seems like a patriotic display of America’s colors, it’s hard not to mentally translate the colors into symbols of the Democratic and Republican Parties—especially on election night.  It may appear as if CNN is acting bipartisan by presenting the colors of both parties.  But to me, the separation between the blue and red simply acts as a symbol of the increasing partisan nature of politics in the United States.  The whole night blue is pitted against red in this giant competition; the race on the bottom of the screen for the senate and the house is a prime example of this.
            The panel of experts that CNN hires for the election coverage further exemplifies the increasing partisan nature of American politics.  The panel displays perspectives from both sides of the political spectrum—from the most liberal to the most conservative.  But what becomes striking is that there are no real strong moderate voices to be heard.  And even worse, when they are asked a question, they simply all begin to speak at once and argue—no comprehensive answer is given and there is no building off each other because they do not listen to one another.
            Many of the flaws seen in CNN’s election night coverage are representative of the current flaws in the American political system.  The polarizing scenery and panelists exhibit the growing partisan sentiment in America quite well.  And what’s worse is that every time coverage similar to this occurs—which is quite often—it only increases these attitudes.  Hopefully, Americans will begin to see this polarization and stop it, because—as can be seen when watching the panelists—a partisan society doesn’t listen to each other and build on each others ideas, it only tears itself apart through bickering.

--Zach Kadow

Tea Party Tidal Wave

While perusing Youtube for victory speeches given on election night, one stood out as particularly ominous—the speech given by Kentucky GOP Senate-elect, Rand Paul. He announces to his enthusiastic audience that “we have come to take our government back” and interjects a statistic regarding the confidence in Washington’s affairs. Paul makes it a point that the general public is clearly unhappy about our current governmental situation and states that a “Tea Party tidal wave” will finally draw Washington’s attention to their unheard voices.

Paul goes on to mention that our “freedom” is what makes America a great nation. The US has several freedoms (that we often take for granted) that many nations lack. However, the form of “freedom” Paul mainly addresses in his speech relates to corporate capitalism. I will refrain from proselytizing, but as a (peaceful) member of the far-left I find it difficult to agree with all of Paul’s views, especially those relating to the “entrepreneurial spirit” he addresses. The freedom he constantly refers to is not enjoyed by the majority of the population, but rather the privileged few in our society, which is exactly to whom the Tea Party appeals.

Overall, the election results left me sorely disappointed. Even though I don’t always agree with the Democrats either, I view them as a far more progressive party than the Republicans. I have noticed all throughout the campaign prior to the election that several candidates seemed to scrounge together millions of dollars for their ads simply to mud-sling and berate their opponents instead of stating their platforms. Progress can never be achieved in this country unless both parties learn to come to some agreement and focus on the real issues at hand (to me, that mainly includes our appalling unemployment/poverty rate and education reform). Paul states in his speech that “America’s best days lie ahead of her.” If that means taking a trip to the past and undoing collective reform (i.e. the health care bill), then I’m not subscribing to that statement.

—Nikki Edmiston

The Midterm Election's Consequences

By: Katie Getting

          The news coverage that I watched came from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart .  Most of it did not pertain much to the actual election results but proceeded to make fun of the other news stations that covered the election outcomes as well.  The technology used by each station tried to outdo the technology used by the other stations, and it all seemed too complex and confusing.  When we were all together watching the election coverage, the one thing that I noticed from the station we tuned into was the touch screens that the newscasters were scrolling through.  Other stations brought in 3D visual images, and The Daily Show attempted to use a green body suit as a green screen to display information.  Is it that hard to just use a normal diagram on the screen?  Is everything in today’s society about being the most advanced technologically?  I think that news stations should focus more of their attention on the issues, and the information they are providing the public instead of coming up with savvy new ways of displaying election results. 

          One piece of information that was mentioned in the coverage was the fact that John Boehner, the former House minority leader, will most likely become the Speaker of the House when the next Congressional session begins.  This is something that the Republicans have been looking forward to for some time.  It was thought that the Republicans would take over the House at the midterm election, but no one thought that it would be by the landslide numbers that it turned out to be.  Republicans took sixty seats.  That's an astounding number.  Obama will now have to learn how to cooperate with a divided Congressional body.  This will be quite difficult especially since he had both branches of Congress on his side for the past two years to help in the passing of his legislation.

          It was mentioned that historically, midterm elections have meant a switch in power of Congress.  For this very reason, Obama made sure to get all of the initiatives most important on his agenda passed before the elections.  Going along with the historical perspectives of elections, the guest speaker on the show who was a presidential historian said that most Presidents that experienced a change in the power of Congress during their terms were likely to be re-elected come the next Presidential election.  This is definitely something that Obama wants to hear.  Maybe this whole power shift is not as bad as everyone thought it was in the beginning.  It could actually produce some good consequences in the future for the Democratic Party.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Will the Real Media Please Stand Up?

As I flipped between Fox News and MSNBC watching the coverage of the political election, I started to think and ask myself, "when was the last time the media provided unbiased news coverage to actually inform people instead of just trying to boost ratings?" Unfortunately I couldn't think of the last time that was actually the case. Today our media does a great job of giving us the story, and actually doing the work to find out when a corrupt politician gets caught cheating with a woman while his wife has cancer, but they always have to provide some twist on it. They always to have to provide that little bit of fire to the story to completely ruin it. Unfortunately the mid-term election coverage was no different.

I first started watching Fox News. They had a lot of information scrolling at the bottom of the screen and at the top of the screen however, this was all moving so fast and everything was put together in a very sloppy fashion that I quickly lost interest simply because it wasn't worth the head ache trying to keep up with all of the house races that magically shifted to senate races and then back to house races. I then decided to give the actual coverage a shot and see if the Conservative Fox News bias didn't exist. However, to my dismay the anchors at Fox News did a horrible job of just covering the elections. Yeah they showed Democrats winning races but they still threw in little side comments. They still threw in how important it was to stop the liberal Obama agenda. At what point does a news company draw the line and ask themselves how important it is to provide good news coverage without the bias.

I flipped the channel to MSNBC and immediately was worried when I saw Chris Matthews heading a table with a few liberal political analysts and the always charming Rachel Maddow. I was just as disappointed with MSNBC's coverage as I was with Fox News coverage. Maddow's constant bickering about how conservatives are bad for this country and how their conservative agenda will somehow destroy the country was just ridiculous.I have to admit Matthews did a very good job of at least attempting to keep the coverage going and as unbiased as possible but it just seemed like Maddown couldn't say anything without throwing in a little shot at Conservative candidates who had just won a seat. MSNBC's coverage of the actual race itself was a little beat easier to understand, but the bias of Maddow and political analysts present at the studio really hampered what could have been a great election coverage.

The whole point and argument I am trying to make here is that our election coverage and media in general is doing a terrible job of providing unbiased news coverage to the American people and frankly, I think there is a link here between voter turnout and participation in politics. The majority of the American population doesn't vote in the Presidential election let alone the mid-term elections. One of the biggest contributors to this is the media not doing its job of providing the American public with an unbiased source of political coverage. Have you ever heard someone complain about how stupid politics are and how its not worth their time to get involved? If the media just did its job without taking jabs at the other side, more people would want to get involved and actually listen. The media does a great job of providing the people with the story, but it doesn't do much more than that. The media looks out for its ratings first instead of the viewers that watch their shows and read the newspapers. Just because someone watches a show doesn't mean they are going to do anything because of it. The media should provide unbiased coverage otherwise what's point of even having the news in the first place. Its for the reasons above I ask the question, will the real media please stand up?

-Caleb Copley

Election Night

            November 2, 2010 was a day filled with anxiety and anger.  With the government debt of 12 trillion dollars and a 9.6 unemployment rate, the American people were fed up with the government.  I watched the midterm election with optimism the Democrats would maintain the House and Senate, yet at the same time knew it was very unlikely. Not only was the American public fed up with the government, history has proven come mid-term elections people tend to vote for the opposite party of the president.  The mid-term election ended with the good guys maintaining the Senate, yet the House experienced an unprecedented turn around leading to an overwhelming Republican majority. 

            As I watched in horror as the House of Representatives became increasingly Republican I noticed how similar the elections were to a sporting event.  The number of Senators and House members won for each party were on each side of the screen, constantly changing like a scoreboard.  On top of that the winners for each congressional race constantly flipped through at the bottom of the screen like games on ESPN.

            Elections have changed from facts about each candidate to horserace coverage. Horserace coverage referring to the media only covering which candidate is in the lead, and by how many points. This leads to decreased voter turnout.  Citizens use the media as a means of collecting information or candidates running. It is simply irrational for an average American to invest a lot of time and effort in researching a candidate.  Thus Americans look to the media to provide a shortcut on candidates.  Also, when the media portrays a candidate up by 12 points, citizens are reluctant to vote as their vote is unlikely to change anything.

            Watching CNN Election night reminded me more of a sporting event, than an event that can change the course of history.
Jake Wasserman

Map of the Election Results

Thousands of Americans sit at their computers constantly clicked reload awaiting the results. The TV switches between so many states and all they care about is their own. They click on cnn’s map of the U.S and focus on their states results. They click on their state for an in-depth look at how the results are broken down. Each state is separated into their districts and counties. Moving the mouse around the state to see how the results are going. Only 1% of the results are in and still they are anxiously refreshing the page hoping they change in their favor.
            As more and more results come in some stats change from blue to red or red to blue, each district within the states doing the same. Some states are predictable, while others are waiting for the results of the race, because they hope their candidate will pull through. It’s the visual of that map with each state highlighted in blue or red that keeps them looking. They stay intrigued because they want to see how it turns out. Each race they have seen advertisements for, or heard on the radio, they want to see all the results, clicking refresh every few minutes, feeling anxious and wanting their candidate to win. This crazy frantic checking goes on for many hours because some polls do not close until nine, and it takes time to get the results in. After hours of waiting some will stay the whole time to see if their candidate is victorious, while others will wait as long as they can and will see the results in the morning.
            When the final votes are added in to the overall tally and the winner is chosen, some will celebrate while others will just accept the results and wait until the next election. Those who watch the results and did not vote, have very little right to be upset, being that they made no effort to vote for change. The only people who have the right to be upset are those who actually went out and voted. The cnn election results map is a good representation of all the individual votes adding up. As the results begin to poor in you can see the counties that make up a state, and how their numbers are looking. It is made easy to monitor as 1% results becomes 2% and as that number increases there is no way to tell where it will go. Some will make predications, but it’s really up to those who went out and voted.
Caroline Salozzo

Visually Displayed Ideas from the Republican Party Headquarters

While the election coverage the night of the election on November 2nd was immense, the coverage the next day was almost equally as significant.  Various news stations featured articles and video clips about the results of the election and what certain key political figures thought of the outcomes.  This CNN video clip features the current House Republican Leader John Boehner speaking to the media about the Republicans claiming the House in the election.  The issue is especially important to him not only because he is the current minority, but also because he is likely to become the new Speaker of the House.  This video clip presents important ideas that stem from the “A Pledge to America” background, the image of Representative John Boehner speaking, and the shown people’s persona.

Backgrounds often contribute to the message that a speaker is trying to send to the public.  They serve as an additional reminder or reflection aid for the audience to assist them in truly extracting the meaning of the speech that is being given.  The “A Pledge to America” background demonstrates the fact that Representative Boehner is literally giving a pledge to America within his speech.  Throughout the speech, he states what the election means for Americans, and what Americans can expect to happen as a result of the election.  He offers his pledge to American about what he hopes to see accomplished.  The background simply reinforces that idea even more.  Also, this background symbolically represents how driven Representative Boehner wishes to appear.  He wants Americans to know how truly focused and serious he is about what he is speaking about within his actual speech.  Also, the “A Pledge to America” background is a reminder to the public about what the speech is trying to accomplish, helping them to refocus on the topic once their minds begin to wander.

Placement of people behind a speaker is usually a very strategic and well thought out task in the political world.  The people, who are in the camera shot of any significant televised event, convey specific messages to the public who is viewing the event.  Look to the video clip of Representative Boehner’s speech.  He speaks in front of three other people who are all at the Republican Party Headquarters.  Placing these people behind Representative Boehner creates a unified front in the audiences’ minds.  It shows everyone watching this speech that other important Republican figures support and will actually stand behind what Representative Boehner is saying.  Having a unified party is majorly beneficial for any political party because it shows the public that what the party wants to do is actually the best option since so many people are behind it.

The professional attire that not only Representative Boehner wore, but also the business formal appearance of the other politicians featured in the clip portrays the image that these people are the right ones for the positions that they are in.  A well-dressed politician is essential in Washington.  Representative Boehner’s clean cut, professional suit confirms in the publics’ minds that he is capable of maintaining Congressional etiquette and being professional in his approach to societal issues.  Furthermore, just about everyone featured within this clip is dressed in some form of red, white, or blue.  This subtle, yet intended hint, redisplays the Republican Party’s national pride.  It creates the idea of the Republicans desiring to do what is best for the nation and the people within it.  This video clip featuring Representative Boehner clearly portrays images about the Republican Party through the “A Pledge to America” background, Representative Boehner’s election speech, and the attire of the people present.

Mary Rometti

Justice Not Served

Many Iowans woke up Wednesday November 3, 2010 and turned on the news to see the results of the election they did not stay up for the night before. I did the same and was kind of surprised by what I saw. Chuck Grassley winning did not surprise me much, I expected him to win. Boswell winning as well was expected. Branstad winning governor was not too shocking either. The big shock for me and many Iowans was the getting rid of the three Iowa State Supreme Court Judges up for retention this year.
Iowa has had a retention option on the ballot since 1962, but has always retained all judges since then, according to So since there has always been a retention vote in the past, why was it such a big deal this election. A group of anti-homosexual marriage people led by Bob VanderPlatts was upset by the Supreme Court’s ruling last May that allowed same-sex marriage in Iowa. They believed this was the way to undo what has already been done.
This is not the case, in my opinion. Several people were very upset over the decision by Iowa voters to not allow the three Supreme Court judges back on the bench next session. Adam Lange, a senior at Grinnell College said on his facebook page in response to these events, “I'm most upset about judicial retention, IA has a proud history of civil rights, way to politicize an office which should not be political. . . Also, does no one realize that Branstad appointed two of the judges who were just voted out?”
Many people agree with Adam Lange. They believe this election may be the beginning of a downward spiral to politicizing the justice system. Many fear the justice system will begin to make unfair decisions based on who is willing to pay the most for their campaign to get elected as a judge.
On the other hand, according to LA Times this is among the most effective ways of avoiding a politicized judiciary. The judges face no opposing candidates and list no party affiliation. Voters just select ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on certain rulings that may or may not be ‘hot-button issues’.

Kelli Riesberg