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

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Up To Date Election Coverage Leaves General Public Behind

 Zac Stevens
Voter turnout at the polls has historically always been low and with the recent development of delivering high tech news to the public quickly has added to this. Watching CNN report on the Governor, Senate, and House races on election night added confusion and misrepresentation to the polls, which could discourage people to vote.
CNN constructs their election coverage to be in one big room with many tables having many people at each table along with different changing screens in the background. At the bottom of the screen there is also updated information about each race. They set up the newsroom this way to have many aspects and portray an up-to-date newsroom, however this only adds confusion to some of the viewers. With the camera moving quickly from person to person, screen-to-screen it is hard to understand what message is being given out about the outcomes of the night. What this does is it represents the elections as a whole. It shows all of the back and forth views and opinions that the opposing candidates have given throughout their entire election. They try to keep the intensity and atmosphere of the election race going even though all of the campaigning and most of the voting is completed.
Another aspect that CNN delivers is they project the winner of some races right when the polls close. They do base their projection on the exit polls and most of the exit polls are scientific but they still contain some margin of error. A poll is considered scientific when it has between 1,000-2,000 people polled, it is representative, and it is of random selection. This is not hard for professional companies to do yet there can still be margins of error. This isn’t the biggest problem that I see in CNN’s presentation of election night. What is disturbing is when CNN talks about the outcome of the entire election early in the night and they do hypothetical situations yet show it on the screen and talk about it, as it is the outcome. They do these hypothetical situations to states where the polls haven’t even closed. This is a problem because it can discourage people to vote. People can see the hypothetical outcome and decided that they do not need to vote because either the person they were voting for is going to win or the person they were going to vote for is going to lose and they do not find it worth it to vote. This is obviously not the point that CNN wants to give but by going to this extent of doing hypothetical situations as if they are real it can discourage people, which could in fact change the outcome.
With technology now being so fast and globally spread almost everyone has access to the polls minute-by-minute updates all around the nation for the entire night. This could cause for a problem because decisive results for the eastern times zones are usually determined before the western time zones polls are even close to being closed. Just like mentioned earlier this could affect people’s decision to vote. People can see that one party is winning by a great majority of states and find it useless to vote for their state because of this deficit or visa versa. Even listening to the so-called experts talk about the states whose polls haven’t even been closed. For example, tonight, election night, CNN was predicting early in the night before even most of the western states polls closed that the Republican Party was going to over take the House majority. People on the west coast could have seen this and thought that because this was already “decided” that it did not matter from here on out even though it does because every seat in the House is important even if one party has a majority. Saying this, we have to hold the American people as a whole accountable for not knowing how the basics of how the American government works and that it is not just winning the majority of Congress that matters, but that is a different point all of its own. I understand that this point of national coverage will never be able to be changed because people will always want to know as much information as they can but American will and should adjust to this and better inform people to vote no matter what the results are showing.
Some of what the points that I have stated can be changed while others are just a natural shift in the changing times. This exciting night that occurs every two years has a lot to live up to but the chaos, confusion, and slight misleading information can change the outcome of the election while also making for a realistic, intense atmosphere.

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