How Too Much Media Attention Could Hurt The Democrats’ New Infrastructure Bill

After President Biden’s COVID-19 Bill was incorporated into law, Democrats prepare for your next legislative achievement: a sweeping Infrastructure bill. And like clockwork, there’s already a slew of news about the drama – Legislators are pushing their own Agenda items, Conflict around how best to pay for the bill and Concerns about how the legislature will reach consensus.

Biden and the Democrats for their part seem to welcome media attention at this point. But you might want to be careful how a lot of They attract media attention. Studies show media attention often makes it harder – not easier – getting actual legislation through Congress. Case in point: The early stories of conflicting agendas related to infrastructure can be an early sign that media coverage will be counterproductive. Media coverage tends to focus on conflict and process, which can put voters off and ultimately reduce support for policy proposals.

Mary Layton Atkinson, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, noted this in her book Combative Politics: The Media and Public Perception of Legislation Important laws passed by a small majority receive five times more media coverage than those who happen with large bipartisan majorities. According to her research, media coverage is mostly focused on why the legislation was controversial or why the legislative debate was fierce. Only a third of Congress coverage is focused on political details.

The consequence of this, Atkinson told me, is this, “[M]All people are switched off from the process discussion, even if they like the content of the legislation. “In other words, the public often diminishes from a large part of the legislation that political interests dominate everything else, which in turn can reduce support for the legislation and increase public perception of partisanship and extremism.

Political scientists James Curry and Frances Lee think so The legislature still speaks often about a broken process and political considerations, even if they are on the winning side. It did so with the recent COVID-19 relief bill with democratic lawmakers Complaint that an increase in the minimum wage was not included. The bill has remained popular so far, although it is worth noting that it is unique in that it responds to a major public health crisis.

Why do policymakers watch media coverage if it doesn’t help get legislation passed? John Lovett, who teaches politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, notes that lawmakers – especially members of Congress who otherwise struggle to get noticed – are increasingly interested in sharpening their national profile. As bills get more coverage, more members are mentioned, each with their own priorities and objections.

Since the 1980s, Congress leaders have too employed communication staff faster than the political staff, concerned that the way their proposals will be handled could affect election results. Many ideologically extreme members are now interested in advancing their individual careers generate more media coverageinstead of handing over bills.

All of this comes at the expense of compromise. How Lovett told me recently, “[The] The media will allow these members to really expand the subject significantly and bring in new perspectives. “But Lovett added,” As you get more and more of these new perspectives, it becomes more difficult for leaders to bring everyone together. ” For example, in his research he has found that the increased media coverage has over time made the debates about immigration more controversial and the debates about health care more heated than the debates about agriculture.

Given our saturated media landscape in Congress, are we in a spiral of low productivity? Not necessarily. There are still many success stories.

In fact, the last Congress was surprisingly bipartisan All 15 major laws are supported by both bipartisans and a majority. This is among the most bipartisan records in Congress, even in our polarized times. Granted, last Congress’s productivity was aided by five COVID-19 relief laws, but there were other bread-and-butter laws like disaster relief and protection of public land that didn’t dominate the news.

It turns out that consensus legislation is still possible. But you can’t hear much about it. Indeed, this may be what makes it possible to exist.

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