Political scientists from the University of Arkansas have devoted a study based on visual techniques used by candidates during election campaigns. Based on televised visual coverage used by democratic and republic parties in 2016, the research experts attribute Donald Trump’s win to optical techniques used by the media, such as camera time and solo shots, among others.
Experts believe that although the candidate’s speech and policy position certainly play an important role in influencing public opinion, they also shed on the critical and pervasive role the media plays which has an impact on public perceptions. Most of this comes from how the media visually depicts a political candidate.
As part of the research framework, experts analyzed the first two debates of Republican and Democratic candidates frame-by-frame. Moreover, the aggregate camera time, type of shot whether solo, split screen, side-by-side, or with multiple candidates as well as audience reaction was also studied. The hypothesis drawn by the study says that debate is key to a candidate’s subtle, non-verbal information insinuating on the candidate’s abilities and traits. The researchers also concluded that if the majority of shots were taken solo or side-by-side, it hinted on the candidate’s authoritative personality.
During the 2016 debate, experts found that Trump had a majority of camera time, followed by Jeb Bush. The candidate’s ranking in polling numbers confirmed the hypothesis, with Trump in lead and Bush coming second. Moreover, the researchers also shed light on minimum screen time Trump used in group shots, focusing rather on him as a leader or as a competitor. Among the democrats, Hilary Clinton had more solo screen time followed by Bernie Sanders.
“If seeing is believing, then who chooses what and who we see, and how we see them, has enormous influence and responsibility for a functioning republic,” confirms researcher Patrick A. Stewart, associate professor of Political Science.
The study was published in the journal Politics and the Life Sciences.