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Federal Government Review

Modern presidential election campaigns essentially represent mass media campaigns. Even though the mass media does not determine what takes place in a campaign, the large majority of voters turn to media to track the progress of campaign efforts and the strategic game that candidates play in their pursuit of the presidency. Depending on the values and the approach that each mass media source takes in its work, elections can be presented differently. Specifically, right-leaning news media are more likely to illustrate the Republican representative in a favorable light, while the left-leaning media are more likely to support the Democratic candidate. As the two candidates are in a power struggle for the highest position in the country, media sources are also battling to get the most coverage and exclusive news to win over audiences.

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Earned or free media represents publicity gained from promotional efforts other than paid advertising. Essentially, it is word of mouth, often in the form of viral tendencies, shares, reviews, and reposts. A strong driving force for free media is the combination of strong natural search engine rankings and content distributed by candidates. Paid media, on the contrary, represents paid media for which campaigners will pay. It is used for promoting content for driving earned media, including the direct traffic to owned properties of media companies. Many candidates and their subordinates believe that media, especially paid forms, must be used predominantly for promoting and advertising campaigns and not for informing or educating the electorate. Notably, media is more prone to posting or showing short news pieces that will be visually or informationally exciting for audiences, which means that context is often missed or misunderstood.

The election process starts with primary elections and caucuses, which are the two ways that states used to select a nominee for the presidential position. While primaries employ secret ballots for voting, caucuses represent local voter gatherings that vote at the end of a meeting for a specific candidate. Then, the organization of the presidential campaign moves to nominating conventions intended to select a nominee behind which a population will unify. During a political convention for a party, whether democratic or republican, each nominee for the presidency will also announce a running mate, the possible vice president. After that, candidates travel throughout the country to explain their plans for the presidency to voters. Besides, candidates will also participate in debates with candidates from other political parties.

National Party Conventions have undergone some changes throughout history. Parties began holding conventions in the early nineteenth century, while presidential primaries began in the early twentieth century. The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago was a landmark of change. During the convention, party leaders ignored the results of the primaries that supported anti-war candidates such as Eugene McCarthy and nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who did not run in the primaries and was a Vietnam war supported. Protests erupted, which challenged the format of conventions. Since then and till today, both Democratic and Republican conventions have become venues for celebrating and promoting chosen candidates instead of picking one, as it was previously. In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which preceded the 2020 Presidential Election, major party conventions were held mainly remotely, which shows that they are no longer relevant for choosing candidates specifically.

The Electoral College system has often been confusing to foreigners. When voters in a US Presidential Election go to the polls, they are voting for a group of officials making up the Electoral College that is expected to represent populations’ interests. The number of electors from every state is adjusted to the size of the population, with California having the most significant number of electors, which is 55, while Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Washington DC have a minimum of 3. As each elector represents one electoral vote, the goal of candidates is to gain the majority of voters, which is 270 or more, to win.

Party realignment and dealignment also play essential parts in presidential elections. There are traditionally two dominant parties in the US, and the affiliation to one of them is referred to as alignment. A significant shift in party affiliation is known as realignment, which is characterized by a large chunk of a population abandoning one party to join another. A notable case of realignment occurred in 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election during the Great Depression opened the way for a period of Democrat control lasting several decades. The realignment happened due to the major national economic and social crisis associated with the depression. Dealignment refers to a widespread movement of individuals abandoning all political parties. Therefore, people leave the party with which they are affiliated and do not affiliate with any other party. In the US electorate, dealignment took place between the 1960s and 1990s when Democrats maintained control over Congress while the proportion of pure independent identifiers increased, with the rising stream of independent and third-party candidates. This mainly occurred due to the declining trust in political affiliation with either party.

Campaign finance represents funds raised for promoting candidates, political parties, as well as initiatives. At the federal level, Congress enacts campaign finance law while the Federal Election Commission (FEC) enforces it. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002 remains the most recent major law influencing campaign finance. Its key provision is the prohibition of unregulated contributions to candidates or legislation (“soft money”) and the limitation on the use of both corporate and union funds to pay for an advertisement within campaigns. Before the McCain-Feingold law, “soft money” donations were not regulated and were used as a loophole in the campaign finance law. In the 2004 Presidential Election, the immediate effect of restricting “soft money” used in the campaign is that political parties were unable to raise “hard money” and spend it.

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Besides, the development and dissemination of “issue ads” was made impossible, thus reducing the coverage of the campaigns nationwide and facilitating an entirely new perspective on how electoral informational war works. The unintended consequence of the BCRA in the 2004 election was that it consequently enhanced the power of highly organized and narrowly-focused groups with special interests. Besides, it reduced the accountability of such interests in favor of encouraging groups to conceal their identities. Finally, it helped raise a nearly impenetrable economic force field of incumbents’ protection. Even though “soft money” was placed under a comprehensive umbrella of regulation, there was a hole with the 116 Stat. 82, Sec. 203(c)2, defining organizations in section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 that are exempt from the BCRA provision. Therefore, while creating a restriction, the BCRA still made it possible for uncontrolled contributions to pour into the 2004 Presidential Election.

In the US context, lobbying refers to the paid activity in which the groups of particular interest hire professional and high-status advocates (e.g., lawyers) to support specific legislation in decision-making bodies such as Congress. The right to lobby is protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution and represents the interests of the populations that do not have the opportunity to access to represent themselves personally to the government. Without lobbying, the government will have difficulty dealing with many competing interests of the population. It offers access by people to government legislators, acts as an educational tool, and allows individual interests to get numeric power.

There are different strategies and tactics for lobbying, such as attempting to influence policymakers from the inside, conferences and public meetings, consultations, face-to-face interactions, as well as different forms of digital communication. For example, insider advocacy occurs through the development of relationships through service delivery work on a particular issue. Over time, the lobbyists get recognized as experts and resources in policy-making, which boosts the effectiveness of ‘working on the inside.’

Interest groups and lobbyists are regulated by the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, which defines who can and cannot lobby and requires both groups to register with the federal government. The laws were broadened by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 and Obama’s Executive Order 13490. The legislation has been effective at regulating lobbyists and interest groups by setting specific boundaries and penalties for violating the law. However, it should be noted that prosecutors tasked with enforcing lobbying regulations can often be understaffed and have limited budgets, which makes it challenging to investigate and prosecute some transgressions.

Parties are essential to both House of Representatives and the Senate. Even though political affiliation does not play as significant of a role in the elections as it did once, it still offer the basic organization of leadership in Congress. After a party wins the election and thus more representatives, it is designated as the majority in each house while the losing party is the minority. The designators are relevant because the majority party in Congress holds more significant leadership positions, such as the House Speaker.

The individualistic nature of politics can hurt parties because the difference in views and perspectives presents challenges in defining a specific agenda for a party. Major political parties are usually organized at the local, state, and national levels. Leaders and activists within each party are tasked with choosing candidates who would run for office, finding financing and managing campaigns, as well as creating policies and positions to appeal to party constituents. For instance, at the national level, local parties run their candidates for Congress and the presidency. Every party has its national committee of party leaders, elected officials, as well as chairs of the state party organization.

Polls represent a popular way of measuring public opinion; however, they are complex and require detailed planning and care. The organizations tasked with polling the public employ methodologists and statisticians in conducting polls and analyzing data. Several essential criteria must be met to ensure the accuracy and reliability of polls. For example, the methodologists identify the desired population to survey and sample a random group from the population. A representative sample is needed to ensure that the demographic distribution of the sample is similar to that of the entire population. Bias may occur when the population included in the poll is not representative. Moreover, it is vital to consider self-selection bias, which entails that some potential respondents can be more likely to respond because of their interest in the subject of the poll. However, non-response-related errors can exist because other groups that should have been involved in public opinion polls may be uninterested in participating or cannot be reached for some reason.

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When the sample of a poll is representative of the actual population, the accuracy of a survey will be reflected by a lower margin of error. That margin is a number stating how far the results of a poll may form the actual opinion of the total population. The lower margin of error, the higher the likelihood of the survey being predictive, while large error margins are problematic. For instance, if a poll that claimed Hillary Clinton was more likely to win 30% of the 2016 NY Democratic primary vote has a margin of error of +/-6, it suggests that the candidate would receive 24% minimum or 36% maximum (“How Is Public Opinion Measured?”). Because of this, polls should have lower margins of effort because they will give analysis and statisticians the most accurate picture of how a particular event is likely to unfold. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure sample representativeness through adequate sampling and questioning to avoid high margins of efforts in public opinion polls.

Work Cited

“How Is Public Opinion Measured?” Courses Lumenlearning, 2016. Web.

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