The Evolving Role of Radio in Elections


Can you separate radio from other media in the role it has played in elections?

Before radio or television were available, the only way for voters to see or hear a political candidate was if a special train tour happened to stop in their hometown.  The candidates would give short speeches from the back of the train, but only those within the sound of their voice were reached.  The invention of radio broadcasting enabled political candidates to be heard by millions.

Prior to the advent of internet and television, radio was crucial in the outcome of elections.  The Monitoring Times published an article in July of 1992 called “The 1924 Radio Election” by Don Moore which asserts that radio changed politics permanently.

Broadcaster and historian Gleason Archer wrote “The effect of the election on radio was more important than the effect of radio on the election results!” Radio was, however, credited with focusing people on the election and bringing out a huge number of voters.

Some people think that the days of radio are over, and consider it old fashioned compared to TV, the internet, and social media. However, research indicates that radio is still a highly trusted medium for political information that reaches the diverse landscape of American voters.  So regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, radio can play an important role for everyone.

Questions for you:  Do you believe radio is a more trusted source for information when compared to TV, the internet, newspaper and magazine and if so why? Does any form of media actually change the outcome of an election?

Post your answers in the comments and enter to win CC Pocket Radio  – Drawing will take place Tuesday June 28th. Limit one entry per person.

For full radio coverage on the 2016 elections – visit the links below

40 Responses to “The Evolving Role of Radio in Elections”

  1. Rosario Guzzi Says:

    Nothing extraneous and no distractions, the spoken work is king.

    • Marge Carnahan Says:

      What would I do without National Public Radio??? It is the only place other than PBS-TV where one can get balanced news and not be told how to think. Instead I listen to NPR on my radio and my computer while I get ready for the morning and when I am in the car or work outdoors.

  2. Sara Dunsford Says:

    I prefer radio so I can multi-task and get more done when I come home from work.

  3. mark d. antonino Says:

    yes,less effected by media bias.yes,people become more informed with the truth which effects the voters choice.

    • Rosario Guzzi Says:

      You must be as old as I am, Mark. At 77, I remember well the dark days before television, but then we lost that unique era
      of the radio. Our “time” was early evening for the Lone ranger, The FBI In Peace and War, Suspense, as well a belly-full
      of laughs from The Great Gildersleve, Hope and Crosby, George and Gracie and Jack Benny. It was time for bed when the
      adults tuned in to those great sounds of swing, jazz and Hank Snow country. But the best part of it all was playing with the
      gang, outside in the fresh air, sports, cookouts, hot rod racing on streets once deserted but busy as hell now! We were
      healthier, better boys to men, soon grown and paying our debt to America by serving in the greatest military of the 20th
      century. Uncle Sam, in turn, said thank you with the GI Bill. That was the America I knew. Sadly, our light in the world has
      dimmed. the Republic diminished and like great civilations of the past, we decline with apathy. God bless America. If He
      doesn’t, none will now that we are strangers in our own country.

  4. Vicki E. Says:

    I believe TV can change an election, but usually in a negative way. Political ads against opponents are partial truths or taken out of context. The late night TV hosts and Saturday Night Live cast often portray Conservative/Republican candidates in a negative way. They make fun of principals they obviously don’t understand. Since their target audiences are often younger, more impressionable, and less likely to research the truth from other sources, the TV hosts’ portrayal is accepted as “the truth.” Sarah Palin was one of those whose political career was virtually ended due to late night TV skits. There is often no way to counter-balance gross exaggerations and untruths with the truth once it’s “out there” on TV. On the radio however – especially talk radio programs, listeners can call in and express their opinions, challenge what they’ve heard, and offer facts and proof to support their views. Opinions can be swayed when facts are presented truthfully with solid examples and sincerity.

  5. Jim Berry Says:

    Radio allows a more thorough analysis and discussion as compared to TV sound bites which tell us little or nothing.

  6. Fernando A Kock Says:

    Nothing can beat a radio for unadvertisement programs.

  7. Scott Lieberman Says:

    Talk radio is probably more trusted for political news than the other forms of media because the host has up to 15 hours per week to bond with the listeners. That is way more time spent with listeners than TV, and newspaper and magazine writers don’t usually bond that strongly with readers. That being said, it is probable that the TV debate between Nixon and Kennedy lost the election for Nixon.

  8. Kevin Says:

    Whether radio is a more trusted medium depends more on the source than the medium. I listen to public radio for all my news. The news is always at the top of the hour and is generally followed by something else I may be interested in. Radio has changed the outcome of elections in the past as new forms of media will continue to for the future. It is so nice to see that radio still plays a vital role it getting news out to the masses. The barrier to entry for a radio listener is ver low. All you need is a radio and there see no subscription fees or data charges. Genius!

  9. Jack Sheehy Says:

    As long as there are people commuting to work in their cars, radio will be a major news source for politics and everything else. In a market where the radio stations are long established, some will have a reputation for being trustworthy and will be accepted as a valuable source of accurate information. Even though many commuters are texting and driving, most don’t look at their laptops or read the news on their phones while driving.

  10. Philip Stickney Says:

    I am not sure it is more trusted, but it is often the background while doing other things and the listener doesn’t consciously filter what they are hearing. TV, newspapers, and the internet require direct involvement. Almost like subliminal programming.

  11. Dan Murphy Says:

    First there was the telegraph. Then the telephone. Then, at last, the radio. The wonder of hearing voices and music and the drama of real events instantly whispered in your ears! The gathering of families all over the world that were informed and entertained every night and day. That will always be a part of us and cannot be replaced. It is the foundation of everything that follows.

  12. Kelly Mills Says:

    Is radio a more trusted source? Yes, I think it is depending on what programs and networks you listen to. For example, I really enjoy the John Batchelor show broadcast each night on 770 WABC. WBT out of Charlotte is also carrying the show. I feel that I can trust the guests on the program.

    Newspapers are also pretty reliable sources of information, again depending on which paper you read.

    I feel that TV News is all about sensationalizing the story just to get viewers. For example, I’ve seen “riots” covered on TV that consisted of just a handful of people. Close up shots are used to make the crowd look larger.

    The internet reflects TV and newspaper or print news, but not necessarily radio. This makes radio the unique medium.

  13. Kelly Mills Says:

    Does any form of media actually change the outcome of an election?

    Unfortunately, I think that television sways more people on voting than anything else. Probably because it’s the easiest and sometimes the most entertaining media currently available.

  14. Regina Hageman Says:

    Hosts on radio have more time to persuade listeners that their opinions are correct. People make up their own minds about who to vote for and why though. Radio will always be a highly important trusted media. It makes you take time and think.

  15. Jack Nelson Says:

    I bought this pocket radio from C. Crane as someone told me that they had the best pocket radio and I had to have the best in this presidential election year as the pocket radio I had could only pick up one station in the north woods of Wisconsin where I spend my summers.In California my radio could pick up stations up and down the dial but I knew I was not going to spend this summer without being able to hear Rush and Hannity on the radio to keep up with the presidential campaign so a friend told me to look up C. Crane and I did and ordered it and had it mailed to Wisconsin and it was at the post office when I picked up my mail the day after I arrived and it worked so great that my morale really improved from that day on and I am enjoying my long daily walks listening to your wonderful pocket radio and I am now even enjoying mowing the big lawn on my tractor mower as I have the sound proof ear muffs so I do not mind mowing the lawn anymore . My wife had bought me a smart 50 inch HDTV for my birthday and I tole her thanks but if I had to choose between my C.Crane pocket radio and that TV , I would take the radio as the TV I had was sufficient for my needs .What a difference in my morale this radio has made this spring.. Thank you again for making a radio that works in the north woods.. sincerely yours, Jack Nelson

  16. Ella Neelands Says:

    QUESTION–>Do you believe radio is a more trusted source for information when compared to TV, the internet, newspaper and magazine and if so why? Does any form of media actually change the outcome of an election?

    I absolutely believe radio is a more trusted source for gathering information and more effective. There is less distractions because there is no visual imagery. Key ideas are learned by listening. TV has long been used to manipulate the public to except certain norms or behaviors., just as the internet is being use for the same purpose today. When TV or internet is used to reach millions of viewers,visual preparation are created to manipulate the audience to comprehend the effects of the imagery, so to impact the verbal process of the information the audience collects. An the newspaper, the magazine is highly edited,most certainly by journalist seeking to lured readers to except their opinions..True journalism is no longer, it is the glory of the past.
    — The eyes have fashion. The ears have passion..It was the blind man that heard the lie.

  17. Tom Blackwell Says:

    Question: Do you believe radio is a more trusted source for information when compared to TV, the internet, newspaper and magazine and if so why? It’s not a technical issue, it involves choices made by the licensee about content. Is the content “Michael Savage” (not his real name) or is it a serious resource – like the Wall Street Journal. Both are on the air, on radio.

    Does any form of media actually change the outcome of an election? Yes. It has. People who would normally not read newspapers, news magazines, watch TV news, etc. are subject to being motivated to vote by “Michael Savage,” Rush Limbaugh, etc. Balance is needed. Exclusive licensing has been turned into a prior restraint on speech, where I am prohibited from turning on my transmitter and saying “No, Rush Limbaugh, I have a different opinion. The workable compromise on this is the FCC Fairness Doctrine, as vetoed by Ronald Reagan.

  18. BS Says:

    All depends on WHO OWNS the Media Format in question & how those said ‘owner(s)’ ALLOW their paid-for ‘Talking Heads’ to discuss/enlighten their listeners towards truth/facts/spin-doctoring et al…All Media Formats have 2 Basic Principle’s they rely on to gain an audience = COMFORTABILITY & MENTAL STIMULUS INTERACTION…Both based on keeping interest at a premium. But, by far…RADIO REIGNS SUPREME on the most important of all media format comparisons = U CAN SLEEP WITH IT ;)…Be that in Talk Show &/or Music Format, whilst NOT SUFFERING FROM THE ADDED LIGHT SPECTRUM NOR RADIATION THAT IS EMITTED FROM THE LIKES OF TV/INTERNET MONITORS…Eh, cozy bedfellow that can tell one a quiet bed-time, up to date, new(s) story…along with the subtle lullaby of soft music that can aid in a swift drift in Slumberland ;)…& Radio can inherently persuade those inclined to partake in debate w r t politico thought…BUT, HAS ZERO EFFECT ON ANY/ALL ELECTION(S)…DUE TO THEY ARE FOR THE MOST PART A RIGGED GAME…Up until this year of course 😉

  19. freggie53 Says:

    I listen to radio almost 24/7. In my opinion, it’s the most diverse and complete coverage available!

  20. freggie53 Says:

    The pocket radio has been great except that the earphone plug is loose and I use a rubber band to hold it tight

  21. Steve Ray Says:

    I find radio to be the best way for me to understand the issues. TV is about entertainment so you can watch FOX run out there stable of beautiful women saying absolutely empty arguments or MSNBC replay over and over visuals that play on your emotions to sway your opinion. Their goal is the same. Make you feel outrage, fear, and thus stay tuned. The internet is layer after layer of misinformation. Newspapers are better but rarely can bring both sides of an issue to life in 5 to 10 paragraphs. I listen to radio because on the road I have the time. The radio media is dominated by conservative host catering to an aging audience but a few are actually good at bringing depth to an issue and both sides of an argument can be discussed and explored. Nothing better then sharp discussion with two different perspectives engaged in logical debate minus the blowhard host.

  22. lwc Says:

    Maybe three hundred years ago, news came from the town crier. Community newspapers came later.
    The first major jump in the speed of news was the telegraph, which could transmit news across state line in minutes. The next major jump was radio and television. News could move across continents in seconds.
    The biggest drawback to those earlier media is that they were all on-way communications. We consumers were all passive users. The latest evolution in news media is the internet, which brought in new dimensions to the dissemination of news, two-way communication.
    No longer are people merely passive consumers of news. We are now originators of news, as well, with the ability to contradict stories propagated by Big Media. The newspapers, news radio, and television station conglomerates of Big Media no longer have the monopoly on news.
    Through social media, blogs, comments, and other sites, people have the means to by-pass the gatekeepers of information and promulgate, as Paul Harvey would say, ‘the other side of the story’.

  23. Rosario Guzzi Says:

    I believe Paul Harvey ended by saying “And that’s the rest of the story.” I may be mistaken.

  24. Beverly toner Says:

    I listen to my c crane radio daily and rarely watch tv. I don’t use internet much not do I participate in any of the special media sites. I realize I’m in the minority and I would hate not having my friend the radio.

  25. Richard Sperring Says:

    Radio is a trusted friend, a servant at my beck and call, and an entertainer for variety, information and comfort. It goes with me wherever I go, and is an indispensable tool. For most of my eighty-six years, I have used it daily for information and enjoyment, and it has stayed always up-to-date.

  26. Jay Sorensen Says:

    Having done talk radio for many years, we are able to weed through the B.S. And the audience can decide who is right or wrong…both the candidates AND the hosts. Radio hosts have opinions. NEWS people should not have an opinion when they do the NEWS.
    Sometimes the talk hosts’ ideas are not in line with what YOU think. But you can usually tell them how you feel as well. Most are NOT news people. And remember, talk hosts are doing a SHOW. Politicians have opinions. They live and die by those opinions. You decide in the voting booth. Spoken word radio (no matter how it is received) will be around until the end of civilization if we allow it. Fortunately, we (hosts and listeners) have freedom of speech. As do politicians. But there are forces afoot that seem to wish to have it go away. Let’s NEVER allow that to happen. BE BIG!

  27. KathyD Says:

    Well I live in a country with publicly funded broadcasting (radio and television) and they are required to be unbiased and to present points and counter-points. We are getting coverage of the US election campaigns and the thing I like best about radio is it necessitates the listener to focus on the spoken word and not be distracted by visuals. We have a country-wide open line radio call-in show that connects the country every Sunday on topical issues and stimulates open, unedited conversations that bring out regional differences but also national unity. We also get NPR from the USA on our local coop radio and the election reporting is excellent.

  28. Harry Says:

    Radio, particularly NPR (although it is to an extent left biased) allows for indepth discussion of issues. TV and many other sources are sound-bite oriented. Those are fine for the news update but the reader/listener does not get the depth of information to learn what the issue is about.

  29. Florian Bechtold Says:

    In growing up I went through the evolution of radio, TV and the internet. I even had an old crystal set my Dad gave me. I still find the radio to be important in that I can listen while driving, reading, working in the yard and on the house. In larger cities you have a broad spectrum of programs available ….. educational, all forms of music, talk shows, liberal and conservative on the same station, special interests such as gardening, home repairs, etc., at all hours of the day. And the transistor radio and current “circuit board” pocket radios all made it possible to listen almost anywhere. I enjoyed short wave radio but this is not as prominent with the advent of the internet. I expect that there will be a place for the portable radio for many more years.

  30. Elaine Garfield Says:

    I find radio to be so much more informative than any other medium, there are no distractions just facts.

  31. Elaine Garfield Says:

    I always have my radio by my side, I get information without all the hype. My radio has educated me in a way no other medium has or can.

  32. ClubWDW Says:

    I am a political animal and in spite of the rise of the internet and cable/satellite TV, I must say, that the majority of my news comes from radio. It’s the only means of getting news in the car that doesn’t require you looking to “take it in”. I worked in radio for several years and even after long hours on the air and in the production studio, I made it a point, as soon as I got in the car, to flip on the radio. AM, FM, Shortwave (Yes, I even have a TravelTenna and an old Radio shack DX-399 for the sole purpose of shortwave listening in my vehicles!), even XM. . . .radio is, and always will be, my go-to source for news!

  33. Kitty B. Says:

    Radio is my choice. It is on all the time even if the tv is on. It is nice to see what the person with the voice looks like, so I do use both for information.

  34. John Arnold Says:

    I am a radio person myself. I am always listening. I find that most of the media are biased or have an agenda which is often very visible but how they report the news and what they discuss. I tend to listen to multiple sites, including foreign sites and find the “middle” view tends to be the most accurate (neutral). It is visible on radio, TV and internet. Compare 2 sites on different ends of the spectrum and it becomes visible on what and how they represent the same incident.

  35. lwc30326 Says:

    When I posted a reply to someone else’s comment, I inadvertently posted a duplicate of the reply to my own comment.Please, delete the reply I posted to my own comment.

    Some people come in our life as blessings. Others come in our life as lessons… Mario Lopez on Twitter

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