Political communication is the use of media to influence political outcomes in elections, political campaigns, debates, revolutions, and government operations. Through images, symbols, and rhetoric, individuals or groups try to manipulate or influence others toward a cause or ideology.
Here are some term paper topics for political communication in the presidential election and Arab Spring.
Role of journalism in political communication
You could write your research paper on the unprecedented media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. Journalistic coverage has become influenced by the candidates’ campaigns through carefully choreographed messages, appearances, interviews, and sound bites. Journalists have often become more entertainer than unbiased observer. Some would argue that they rarely question candidates when they say something untrue or interject during interviews to ask for more in-depth information.
Over the years, campaigns have had more control over what the media covers and disseminates. Social media and numerous 24-hour news organizations have targeted specific audiences rather than offer a comprehensive overview of all sides. “The influence that was wielded by a small number of news outlets has given way to an inordinate number of competitors,” said John Harwood, a reporter for CNBC and The New York Times in “On the Trail: Having Failed to Foretell Trump’s Rise and Facing Mounting Public Disaffection, Newsrooms Are Rethinking How to Cover Campaign,” by Juliet Eilperin in Nieman Reports, Spring 2016. “Accountability for one is amplification for another…The process is fraught and fractious, and due to the polarization in the country, many people are not susceptible to factual argument.”
Social media and the Arab Spring
Another good term paper topic is the role of social media in spreading interest about the Arab Spring revolutionary movement. In 2010, new media like smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, email, websites, blogs, and forums helped spread the word about uprisings against the government and dictators. Social media expanded the reach of traditional communication, such as broadcast radio or television and newspapers. Messages could be targeted to specific organizations and recipients at specific times and locations. This gave people a sense of community and a common goal worth fighting for.
According to Abdelrahman Ali and Eni Maryani in “The Revolutionary Role of the New Media: the Arab Spring Experience,” published in Simposium Kebudayaan Indonesia-Malaysia, 2013, social media was used to call for demonstrations, mobilize against autocratic regimes, alert international news media, enhance international backing for political change, and link to political activists. “The new media outlets as channels of political communication have played a vital role in the uprising of the Arab demonstrations. Both governments and protestors relied on these communication channels either to maintain its position by manipulating facts, from the side of the ruling regimes, or to mobilize people at grassroots levels to topple these regimes, from the side of oppositions and demonstrators.”
Visual images are also political communication
In addition to speeches and interviews, images and visual representations are also important in political communication. A famous example is the first televised presidential debate in 1960 between Kennedy, wearing a dark suit, versus Nixon, wearing a light suit, shown against a light curtain backdrop, which seemed to wash Nixon out. Viewers preferred the more telegenic Kennedy. More recently, Romney in 2012 needed to move a campaign speech into a large, nearly empty stadium for security reasons, but it looked like he could not gather enough supporters. “It is not just what politicians say or write that matters, equally important is how politicians look and visually present themselves. For political communication audiences, what they see is just as important as what they hear or read,” according to Dan Schill in “The ‘Optics’ of Political Communication,” posted in Communication Currents April 2012.
For more information, check out Questia’s library on Political Communication.
How effective to do you think political communication has become? Tell us what you think in the comments.