The press, radio, and television are usually less important than the immediate social environment when it comes to the formation of attitudes, but they are still significant. They focus the attention on certain personalities and issues, and many people subsequently form opinions about these issues. Government officials have noted that their mail from the public tends to "follow the headlines"; whatever is featured in the press at a particular moment is likely to be the subject that most people write about. The mass media can also activate and reinforce latent attitudes. Political attitudes, for example, are likely to be activated and reinforced just before an election. Voters who may have only a mild preference for one party or candidate before the election campaign starts are often worked up by the mass media to a point where they not only take the trouble to vote but may contribute money or help a party organization in some other way. The mass media play another extremely important role in letting individuals know what other people think and in giving leaders large audiences. In this way they make it possible for public opinion to include a large number of individuals and to spread over wider geographic areas. It appears in fact that in some European countries the growth of broadcasting, and especially television, has affected the operation of the parliamentary system. Before television, national elections were seen largely as contests between a number of candidates or parties for parliamentary seats. More recently, elections in such countries as Germany and Great Britain have appeared more as a personal struggle between the leaders of the principal parties concerned, since these leaders were featured on television and came to personify their parties. Television in France and the United States has been regarded as a powerful force strengthening the presidential system, since the president can easily appeal to a national audience over the heads of elected legislative representatives. Even when the mass media are thinly spread, as in developing countries or in nations where the media are strictly controlled, word of mouth can sometimes perform the same functions as the press and broadcasting, although on a more limited scale. In developing countries, it is common for those who are literate to read from newspapers to those who are not, or for large numbers of persons to gather around the one village radio. Word of mouth in the marketplace or neighbourhood then carries the information farther. In countries where important news is suppressed by the government, a great deal of information is transmitted by rumour. Word of mouth thus helps public opinion to form in developing countries and encourages "underground" opinion in totalitarian countries, even though these processes are slower and usually involve fewer people than in countries where the media network is dense and uncontrolled.