GOP decision to drop networks only tunes out voters

They didn’t lose only because the media wasn’t on their side. They lost because there were too many instances when — and too many issues on which — they failed to communicate.

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But that’s exactly why turning off NBC and CNN is bad strategy. Extensive literature in the field of political science — led by John Zaller, author of The Nature and Origin of Mass Opinion — suggests that mass opinion is largely influenced by elite discourse. Voters form opinions about everything from immigration policy to whom to elect president based on a narrow group of “experts” in the policy community, media, and in their own families and communities.

The consensus among researchers like Zaller is that people rely on the beliefs that are “at the top of their head,” meaning the beliefs they heard most recently.  What one hears on the “Today” show or “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” the night before can entirely determine one’s opinion on complicated policy issues, a candidate, or even a political party. 

Too often when it comes to communicating with voters, the GOP seems to want to stem the flow of information, rather than broaden it. But for the millions of Americans who get their information from the mainstream media, they must receive a competing message — a competing viewpoint — and a two-sided flow of information. 

Choosing to disengage from major networks more than two years in advance of an election seems a sure-fire way to ensure that conservatives not only don’t reach millions of Americans with their message but also that they alienate them before they can even try. 

Schaeffer is executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum.