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Adam Weiss, vice president of Political Strategy for iHeartMedia,, discusses the role of media in the 2016 election on Thursday.

December 1, 2016

iHeartMedia VP Discusses Significance of Media in 2016 Election

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Adam Weiss, vice president of Political Strategy for iHeartMedia, assessed the significant role that the media played in the 2016 election and sought to explain how Donald Trump won at a lecture Thursday.

Weiss asked the crowd to shout out things that they do even though they don’t want to. Jotting down the mixed responses, ranging from “paying for taxes” to “staying up late,” Weiss explained that the reason people do these things is to achieve a better life for themselves and their families.

“You do the things that you don’t want to do in order to live a better quality of life, and because you want to live the best life,” he said.

Weiss then discussed his background and the way his pursuit for a better quality of life influenced his path. He shared that he was born with a lot of privilege and that he believes he has a duty to provide his family a quality of life that is equal to, if not better, than the one provided to him.

“I am also somebody who believes in the American dream — as I see it. It is being able to revive the same quality of life for my family that my family provided for me,” he explained.

Weiss then discusses the role that media played in the past election, making a distinction between free media and paid media. He said that Donald Trump made three billion dollars in free media, and that this mode had been his main method of advertising.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, spent a great deal of money on paid media, he said. This resulted in an uncommon case of asymmetrical spending within the election — Trump did not spend a great deal of money on advertisements, while Clinton did.

“The 2016 election cycle saw really asymmetrical spending,” he said. “That is not typical.”

Weiss explained that the main concern in this election was not voter turnout — it was the age of voters that caused problems. He said that millennials are not likely to vote, and that campaigning involves becoming strategic in choosing the means of advertising and the attention of the audience.

“The challenge here is not about turnout — it’s about margins,” he said. “It is about reaching the right voter at the right time with the right message.”

Weiss’s lecture was a part of Cornell Hillel’s Major Speaker Series, which also coordinated talks by Josh Peck and Yaakov Katz this semester.