Selective Perception Among Voters

Media coverage of political campaigns tends to focus on the horserace—the reporting of public opinion results on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.  They also tend to focus on the attempts by candidates and their managers to craft images and messages to suit particular blocks of voters.  Unfortunately, only scant reporting is made of the conflicting and sometimes contradictory opinions and perceptions held among a candidate’s supporters.  Comments made by people in the crowd, the “man-in-the-street,” are reported without filter and as matters-of-fact, with little or no attempt to probe or challenge their assertions.  A more critical ear would likely provide an important opportunity to explore the role of selective perception among the voting public.

Selective perception is a concept taken from the study of public opinion (with a background in the field of psychology) that describes the influence of our biases and prejudices on our interpretations of various forms of information and experiences.  The literature on selective perception suggests that certain predispositions filter our perspectives and attitudes, especially in the context of supporting or not supporting a particular candidate.  Just think of the role that ideology and partisanship play as filters at work in the minds of potential voters.  Understanding how selective perception works helps us understand why so many voters accept or ignore the mistakes, miscues, and waffling of candidates over the course of an election—when it’s their candidate.  When it’s another candidate, the same lens that is used to forgive is now turned into a magnifying glass that is used to scorch the opposition.  What do you think?  Should reporters do more to explore the role of selective perception when on the campaign trail?  How might more critical reporting of the voting public affect election coverage?

–DENNIS FALCON

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5 responses to “Selective Perception Among Voters

  1. Lizbeth Terrazas

    The average voter or citizen in society are unaware of the actuality on how politics and the government really works. So, the reporters who report on the campaign trail need to state the facts, rather than putting there biases on the air, which can affect how viewers see certain candidates.

  2. We live in a nation that puts voters and elections on a pedestal. Questioning voters directly could be perceived as an attack by the “elite media.”

  3. Up until taking this class I never cared about politics or the elections. Whenever the news would start talking about it I would change the channel. The other night I watch the debates for the first time and was interested. I think the way the media could entertain a larger group of people would be to go live to the streets and actualy interview random people about their feelings on the candidates. That way other people could see a real point of view and not just a bias one of a reporter. I can’t remember where I read it but I know it was somewhere in chapter six where it said that younger people will just follow their parents vote because thats how they were brought up. I think the media needs to find other ways to reach out to younger voters because some of them are not interested in the news which means the are uneducated voters.

  4. Selective perception is a very interesting topic especially when it comes to political campaigns. A perfect example of this is the very recent debate involving Vice President Biden laughing and interrupting campaign opponent Ryan while speaking about Iran’s’ nuclear capabilities. “He giggled like a school girl when Ryan tried to answer the question about the number one issue on the minds of Americans — the lack of jobs and millions of people looking for work”. (Toronto Sun) Is this possibly an attempt by Biden to show American’s that the Obama campaign has things under control for the upcoming election. Biden has been known during his campaigning efforts against Obama in past political campaign for presidency to make vary racial and undermining rude comments. Biden did not lower himself in this debate to make such a racial slur however his physical behavior was either vary calculated on his part or could be considered bizarre. While media challenges his reasoning and purposes some even question if he was sober or high. It could be Biden’s attempt to use mass media to convey a point that he does not respect Ryan’s youth or policy campaign and the Obama Campaign has the election in the bag. This media event was widely covered and is currently under the scrutiny of many. One can almost guarantee that the various comedy shows that already discuss or poke fun at the campaign trail will have a bit of fun with this debate. Possibly on the next Colbert Report or even Saturday Night Live, stay tuned for laughs on Biden’s behalf!

  5. Pingback: 6 Ways To Use The Psychology Of Reinforcement Theory To Make Your Content More Effective by Forbes - Entrepreneurs - Serebral 360º

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