It is often presumed that in a Democracy, every citizen or groups of citizen will try to get those pieces of legislation enacted which are in their best interests and try to prevent the passage of those pieces of legislation that are contrary to their best interest, however this can only be true if the citizenry are well informed about the positions of various candidates on various issues and an objective analysis of various policies and their likely future impact are available to the public. The position of the mass media is thus central to the working of a democracy. The public can only make a correct and informed decision on an issue if they have access to factually correct information about the issue; one of the common fears regarding the mass media of today is that it constantly bombards citizens with propaganda disguised as fact.
One of the recent alleged cases of this was during the 2008 elections campaign when the Insight magazine alleged that the current President Obama, who was then one of the contenders for being the Democratic nominee, studied at a Muslim seminary. This was seemingly part of a large scale campaign to convince the public that Obama was secretly a Muslim (CNN.com). This was despite his protestations that he was a Christian. As a result of this propaganda campaign a large number of people continue to believe to this day that Obama is a Muslim.
Despite the general aggrandizement of the right to free speech in America, American citizenry do not tolerate certain types of opinions, the media also works to block out or marginalize certain types of opinion. One of the tools used to marginalize certain opinions and to depict them as ‘fringe’ or ‘lunatic’ are opinion polls. Opinion polls are valuable tools for finding out public opinion but can be misused to alter the public’s perception on an issue (Lowi, Ginsberg and Shepsle).
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