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Trump win a subject for media research

By Wang Lili | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-26 09:00

Trump win a subject for media research

US President-elect Donald Trump gestures from the front door at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, US, November 20, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Donald Trump's election as the president of the United States was a big surprise for many people in the world. But Trump won because he identified the problems troubling the lower and middle classes in the US, such as social inequalilty and the negative consequences of globalization.

Trump effectively used new media to confront US elites, and responded to public concerns. He perceived the value of conflict between the elites and ordinary people and other social contradictions and helped instigate "politics of anger" and "politics of despair".

In any society, the media and elites that dominate public opinions are intoxicated by their past glories and thus suffer from the disease of self-arrogance. The outcome of the referendum in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union showed the British mainstream media and elites did not want to accept the truth. The result of the US presidential election similarly exposed the self-congratulatory attitude of the US mainstream media and elites who turned a deaf ear to the voice of the grassroots people.

Trump's success should be attributed to the knowledge his team acquired about American people's opinions, and the tactful use of these opinions to highlight the social contradictions. It is reported that an opinion poll conducted by an independent agency before the US presidential race indicated that 90 percent of American citizens were extremely unhappy with the corruption in the bureaucracy.

Trump used such public sentiments to his advantage and hired opinion poll consultants. By thoroughly surveying public concerns, Trump's team gained full knowledge about voters' demands and expectations, and used their disappointment with the government and the increasing social contradictions created by the dwindling middle class and the widening wealth gap to Trump's advantage.

That's why during his campaign, Trump directly responded to public concerns and tried to address the issues fueling people's anger.

In many previous US presidential elections, funds and public opinion polls conducted by the mainstream media were usually the most important determinants. But this time, Trump effectively made use of his interactions with the voters and social media to topple the established norm of the mainstream media deciding the winner of the election. Social media, given their open, diversified, instant, interactive and barrier-free advantages, were used by American citizens as an important platform to express their views and influence the voters' choice.

Trump's win is an important lesson for media researchers for many countries, including China. All governments should listen to the voice of the grassroots people. Before any decision is made, the government should invite institutions or think tanks to conduct opinion polls, in order to know what actually people want their leaders to do to improve their lives.

As such, major issues concerning the public should be addressed by the Chinese government as soon as possible. At a time when China is undergoing social transformation and new media (despite the mainstream media retaining their influence) are playing an increasingly big role in influencing public opinions, how to strengthen dialogue with ordinary people and listen to their voices pose a key challenge for decision-makers.

Considering a series of uncertain factors facing Sino-US relations in the four years of Trump's presidency, China should build links with the incoming US administration at the earliest. Beijing should also establish effective communication and contacts with the incoming Trump administration to help guide bilateral ties in the ideal direction.

The author is deputy director of the National Academy of Development and Strategy, Renmin University of China

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