Donald Trump is dividing the church

As women of faith find their voice and Millennial Christians question the Religious Right, what does making Donald Trump the candidate of the faithful mean for the church?

Advertisements

I was traveling through the Mississippi Delta when I heard the tape of Donald Trump’s “locker room talk.”

“How can he recover from this,” I initially reacted, before reminding myself how many times we’ve wondered that before.

But as the weekend progressed, the backlash was stronger than any Trump controversy to date, as more establishment Republicans disavowed their own candidate.

Trump couldn’t have been luckier from a news cycle perspective. The tape leaked on Friday afternoon and the exodus followed while most of us were watching football. By the time we started paying attention again, the second debate had fragmented political media attention in a million different directions. And while Trump may have not won over many undecideds with his performance, he delivered enough red meat to his base to give fleeing Republicans pause.

Leaks targeted both candidates that Friday. Before the Trump tape, Wikileaks released emails containing text excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street executives. Both leaks were revelations only insomuch as they confirmed things we already knew about each person’s character.

But the Trump audio was the far bigger story. For one thing, it was more visceral. We could hear the crude words from Trump’s own lips, as opposed to reading the pandering words attributed to Clinton.

More importantly, while the Clinton excerpts outraged people who were never going to vote for her, the Trump tape caused division among his supporters… a division that’s more significant than one election.

It was the countless churches lining that Mississippi highway, and highways like it all across securely red states. Trump divided Evangelicals.

Continue reading “Donald Trump is dividing the church”

[Media Rundown] Live at Colbert’s Late Show; Trump’s RNC; Ailes FOX ouster

Today, live and in-person for the return of “Stephen Colbert.” That, plus the Trump convention and the end of Roger Ailes at Fox News.

Want to be the first to read the Media Rundown? Subscribe to email updates by clicking the “Follow” tab at the bottom of your screen (or here if that’s not working for you). You can also add to your RSS reader.

The Colbert Nation

I was on vacation last week, being a tourist in New York. The last night in town, my wife and I were in the audience for the first live broadcast of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The show was live last week for the Republican National Convention, and will do the same this week for the Democrats.

We had a blast. The crowd was crazy energetic (much more than for a usual afternoon taping, says CNN’s Frank Pallotta, who went to a show later in the week). I got to geek out about watching a live broadcast of a typically taped program come together. My wife got to dance to the tunes of Jon Batiste and Stay Human (and got to be on-stage as part of the audience warmups!)

On the night we got to see the return of Colbert the character, we also got to know Colbert the man, who seems as affable as every profile would lead you to believe. During taped segments, he would give the audience cues, rather than the stage manager. “I’m going to watch this with you,” he’d say before sitting on top of his desk, chewing on a pen when he wasn’t mouthing the words and looking back toward us to see if the joke had landed.

By the end of the night, we came away with some souvenirs, pictured below. I’m particularly excited about showing my students the rundown – those blue sheets of paper that keep the production crew on track. Continue reading “[Media Rundown] Live at Colbert’s Late Show; Trump’s RNC; Ailes FOX ouster”

The Effect of Instant Media Commentary on Perceptions of Political Speakers: A Conventional Case Study

aejmc14Presented August 9, 2014 at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Montreal, Qc., Canada, Electronic News Division.

For more information about this paper available here, or by visiting the Academia page on dylanmclemore.com.

Television news networks regularly allow us to see live instances of political communication – presidential addresses and candidate debates, for instance. Those communications are immediately followed by an attempt by anchors and commentators to contextualize and analyze what has just been aired. This instant media commentary has long been a source of concern for government officials. If media are biased in their coverage (which is the position of more Americans than perhaps any other time in our history) then this position of first impression could hold great persuasive power.

There is some evidence that instant media commentary can color our perceptions of presidential debates. However, those events are already subject to obfuscation. After all, the entire context of a debate is adversarial, with the audience left to evaluate numerous conflicting messages. This study seeks to extend that research to single-speaker political events, in which an opposing view is absent. Does instant media commentary still have the ability to influence audiences that have been exposed to a more cohesive argument? Embracing the adversarial view of the press, can it step in and ask tough questions with any real consequence?

Today, party nominating conventions are well polished spectacles – a full week ceded to one party to present a controlled message and an ideal depiction of a candidate. Television plays a significant role in this presentation – conventions are afforded primetime coverage by network television, and receive almost the entirety of the news cycle on 24-hour cable news channels.

As it turns out, this spotlight can have a big effect on a candidate’s presidential aspirations. Research has documented what Campbell, Cherry, and Wink dubbed the “convention bump,” in which spikes in public support immediately following a convention can carry through to the general election.

Convention speeches seemed an excellent context to test the effects of instant media commentary of single-speaker events. For this study, participants viewed the keynote address of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the 2012 Republican National Convention. (This study was completed before “Bridgegate,” and pre-test questions confirmed that Christie was a relatively obscure political figure to most observers at the time.) After the speech, participants were exposed to one of three sets of commentary (favorable-unfavorable-neutral), all from the Fox News telecast that evening. A control group watched the speech with no commentary. To test the effect of the “instant” nature of the commentary, some participants were given five minutes to think about the speech before proceeding to the commentary condition, while the rest watched the commentary in real time.

Among the Findings:

– A good speech delivered on a national stage can still move the needle for an aspiring political figure. Even liberal audience members found Christie to be a credible and talented speaker, though, as expected, conservative audiences embraced him the most. More importantly, the speech was especially persuasive to those who did not usually pay attention to politics – an audience primetime convention speeches reach better than most political communication.

– The effect of instant media commentary on audience perceptions might be overstated. All commentary conditions resulted in similar speaker impressions across receiver ideology. In fact, the only consistent finding was that viewers in the control group (no commentary) thought better of Christie, and even had stronger voting intentions.

– The “instant” nature of commentary may not be all that important. Taking a break between speech and commentary did not significantly change perceptions of Christie.

– So, what was really going on between the commentary groups and the control group? This study leaves plenty of room for speculation. Maybe it was the media outlet. All participants, regardless of ideology, perceived the Fox News commentary (even the negative condition) to be favorable toward Christie. Perhaps Fox’s reputation as a right-leaning news outlet primed audiences to expect a certain tone of coverage, and then see it, regardless of the reality. Interestingly, while this hurt media credibility among liberals and moderates, it actually increased media credibility among conservatives.

– Maybe it’s just the media. Evaluations of media speakers were considerably lower than evaluations of Christie. Folks don’t care for the press, we know, but this dislike may negatively affect impression development of the subjects being covered. After all, impressions of Christie dropped even when media commentary was entirely positive.

This was one of those projects that inspired more questions than answers, but was fun to interpret nevertheless. Replication in different contexts, with different source cues may help work through the various explanations for the results seen here.

[Clickworthy] Horseraces and tail wagging: How do you like your election coverage?

The Fourth Estate improved in its role as informer and vetter in the 2012 Republican primary, but it continued to bog itself down in political minutia and reflection of public sentiment, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study found that 64% of primary coverage was devoted to what the researchers deemed “strategy,” a term inclusive of public opinion polls, momentum, advertising, and fundraising – the so-called “horserace” aspect of an election. The remaining coverage was split among the candidates’ personal background (12%), position on domestic issues (9%), existing public record (6%), position on foreign issues (1%), and other uncategorized topics (6%).

It may seem a disservice that so little of the newshole was devoted to informing the electorate about the candidates, but the PEJ was quick to point out what an improvement it was over 2008. The 28% of “vetting” coverage was roughly double the amount candidates received in the 2008 Republican (11%) and Democratic (15%) primaries.

The variations of these primaries is worth considering. The 2008 Republican primary was much different than 2012. John McCain cemented his nomination on Super Tuesday, though one could argue it came even sooner than that. Every legitimate candidate but one (Mike Huckabee) had dropped out by early February. Meanwhile, the 2008 Democratic primary carried on even longer than this year’s GOP battle – a two-person contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that led most of us to learn for the first time what “superdelegates” were. The validity of coverage comparisons between the two primary years might indeed be acceptable then, considering the 2012 Republican primary would fit snugly between the two extremes of 2008.

The Pew study argued that while the 2012 battle may have lasted until mid-April, media coverage established the endpoint on February 29 – a day, ironically enough, that only occurs in an American presidential election year. Or, more relevantly, the day after Mitt Romney won Arizona and his native state of Michigan – a must-win for his blue-collar challenger, Rick Santorum.

Continue reading “[Clickworthy] Horseraces and tail wagging: How do you like your election coverage?”

Gingrich, Romney, Santorum visit Mississippi, vie for hotly contested Southern delegates

Mississippi rarely receives much attention from candidates in presidential elections. After all, there’s usually little doubt as to the inclinations of the most conservative state in the union. Furthermore, with its primary scheduled after Super Tuesday, party nominees usually have been all but officially accepted by the time the Magnolia State rolls around.

2012 is different. While Mitt Romney is a clear frontrunner in the Republican primary, he still faces three opponents, one of whom needs Mississippi (and Alabama) to clearly delineate himself from his rivals, and one of whom needs Mississippi (and Alabama) to preserve any credibility as to why he is still in the race. That’s why Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich all visited Mississippi the week prior to the primary.

All three men made stops in Jackson. I managed to see two of them in person – Santorum and Romney – while collecting a handful of reliable reports on the Gingrich events. As polls show a tight race going into the primary, each candidate used a different strategy to court voters.

Continue reading “Gingrich, Romney, Santorum visit Mississippi, vie for hotly contested Southern delegates”

GOP Presidential Candidates Visit Mississippi

Never in my lifetime can I recall so many campaign buses rolling into Jackson, Miss. Not just for those $2,000 plate lunches, either – for honest-to-goodness, down home, public rallies.

Naturally, I’m game.

The blog already attended Rick Santorum’s rally at the Ag Museum Wednesday night. Tomorrow, Newt Gingrich will be making the rounds, while the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, makes his appearance on Friday. Sadly, no word of a visit from the Ron Paul team.

Keep an eye on the Twitter page (@voiceofD) for live updates as I try to catch as many of these events as I can. A full blog post recapping the candidates’ strategies, the public’s reactions, and an attempt to project the Mississippi primary will come over the weekend.

Magnolia State politicos, enjoy the moment. We don’t get many.

Polling suggests Nominee Romney rapidly becoming a reality

Barring a dead body showing up in one of his many backyards or a surreptitious harem that would make Tiger Woods blush, Mitt Romney became the Republican nominee for President of the United States Tuesday night in New Hampshire.

Conservatives may not love his Massachusetts healthcare mandate. Tea Partiers certainly can’t like his history of political maneuvering. But this much is true, Republican voters realize that Romney is their best shot at beating Barack Obama. And in this game, electability is the stuff of winners.

Give early primary and caucus-goers credit – they have their staunchly conservative poster children, but the votes are going to the only elephant who can sway an independent voter in a general election (save Jon Huntsman, who, despite his truly presidential platform, lacks partisan primary chops. Example A: He is trailing comedian Stephen Colbert in South Carolina opinion polls.).

As you’ve probably heard by now, Romney is the first non-incumbent Republican candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire did very well, but nothing historic (way to count votes, Iowa). Pundits, and the remaining candidates in the field, feel confident that South Carolina will be Romney’s bump in the road. However, the exit poll data from the Granite State suggests that it will instead be the fatal blow to the Santorums and Gingriches and every other remaining Republican hopeful.

Continue reading “Polling suggests Nominee Romney rapidly becoming a reality”