The concept of the horse race has a long history. In 1888, the Boston Journal used the image in its coverage of an election. Since then, this imagery has been criticized by critics of modern polling and election coverage. Atkin and Gaudino criticized journalists for treating election campaigns like horse races. Nevertheless, they noted that the importance of coverage of a race is not to criticize a candidate but to show how the candidates can improve.
In addition to the metaphor’s appeal as a storyline, horse race coverage also helps explain how voters make decisions and which candidates are likely to win. The race coverage often highlights the candidates’ characters and compositions, thus emphasizing their personalities and their policies. However, the use of the horse race as a storytelling device also runs the risk of highlighting the superficiality of political campaigns, which could lead to erroneous outcomes.
Although election polls have been around for decades, horse race journalism is only emerging as a more popular form of reporting. Its focus on the race itself and how it relates to the political arena is undoubtedly more compelling. While many political issues and races are being covered, the media’s obsession with the horse race only serves to further depoliticize the discourse. In addition, the coverage of horse races far outshine all other campaign topics combined.
Another aspect of horse race journalism is the way in which the horse race compares to campaigning. The frontrunner begins the race with a head start, gradually loses speed, falls behind, and finally makes it to the home stretch. The coverage of a horse race is thrilling from start to finish. It is especially useful to journalists drawing a comparison between the media’s coverage of candidates and the race itself. It is easier to draw the parallel between the media’s coverage of a horse race and a political campaign, because the polls can tell a spectator who is leading and who is lagging behind.
The horse race metaphor has a lot of implications for the media. For example, the metaphor of a race focuses on the frontrunners of a campaign. The media also covers the candidate’s character and image in terms of the race’s distance and speed. This results in a greater focus on beauty than on substance. If a candidate is favored by the majority of the public, the campaign will be more likely to be a success.
One of the problems with horse race journalism is that it can make the political process more difficult to cover. For instance, the race is a great place for the media to cover a candidate. But it also means that a politician’s performance is subject to criticism. The media isn’t able to sway the election, so it’s no longer the best way to promote a candidate’s image. If a candidate is viewed favorably by the public, they will have a better chance of winning.