How we vote is intimately tied with how we perceive presidential candidates, and those perceptions are heavily moderated by technology and media.
When FDR ran for president in 1932, hardly anyone in America knew he was crippled from polio. Today, there are only two known photographs that show the 3 term president in a wheelchair, and only 4 seconds of film exist that show FDR walking. Photographers and journalists liked him so much, they respected his request to not be shown in his hobbled state.
In contrast, during the 1960 presidential campaign between Nixon and Kennedy, those who listened in on the radio believed that Nixon had won, while those watching on the newfangled TV set thought Kennedy was the victor; so began the broadcasting of American politics and the image management associated with it.
Fast forward to today, when a president’s every word is analysed by pundits or at the very least, turned into memes on Reddit and Tumblr.
Our perceptions of politicians have altered with each new wave of communications technology. Radio first revolutionized perceptions with the ability to hear candidates’ voices nationwide, then the introduction of television enabled the majority of the nation to see the candidates for the first time. And now, with the ubiquity of television and Internet, we are able to watch candidates almost constantly with the 24-hour news cycle; we have become fact-checkers ourselves with the Internet and the ability to engage them directly via social media.
How will technology continue to mold our perceptions of candidates? What advantages and drawbacks will future technologies have on the 2016 elections and beyond? The impact of mobile and social is still being felt, with some candidates using it better than others, and these technologies will increasingly define how we choose our leaders. But will it go as far as voting by smartphone?
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