Media, fact-checking or polls momentarily aside, this is surely the most vitriolic and vicious presidential campaign I have ever seen.
Going back to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon contest, the power of television became evident as it ushered in the modern era of presidential candidate debates broadcast live to the entire country. The following half-century has seen escalating network coverage of debates, town hall meetings, rallies and one-on-one sessions involving the candidates.
We now have real-time fact-checking of the candidates’ statements, although nobody really fact-checks the fact-checkers. Polls crop up like weeds, although it is seldom if ever specified whom the pollsters were actually surveying, and we certainly do not know if polls influence the final voter decisions or may deter some voters from even showing up.
Can television hosts, interviewers, moderators and other on-air personalities actually alter the way voters vote? The answer to such a question may establish better ground rules for the questions that are asked and how the candidates’ responses are handled. To borrow a quote from one of the presidential hopefuls, “What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?” Mrs. Clinton, I beg to differ; I think it does make a difference if there is preferential treatment of one candidate that may change a susceptible voter’s mind.
As the 2016 campaign winds down, I would want to know how many voter decisions actually were changed, if at all, by what they viewed on television. Networks are not likely to ferret out this information, but if truly representative and specific public opinion polls showed this number to be shockingly small, then we could readily chuck these circus-like events and return to quality television programming that would actually inform as well as entertain us.