Unit 12 - Politics

General Purpose:  To explore the effects of media on our political
attitudes, political processes, and voting behavior.

Unit Outline

I.   The Great Fear

     A.   Old Version - Hitler dominated the mass media.  Americans
          were concerned that someone this influential could take

     B.   New Version - Perot literally bought the media.  Perot
          spent more than Bush and Clinton combined.

     C.   Can Media Make This Much Difference?  Americans were
          relieved that Perot did not change our politics.

II.  Political Media History (Diamond & Bates, 1988)

     1924 Radio - Calvin Coolidge spent $100,000 to broadcast his

     1928 TV - Al Smith, candidate for Governor of NY, wanted to
     look high tech (used publicity stunt).

     1934 Newsreels - Republicans shot fake newsreels to defeat
     Upton Sinclair when running for Governor of CA.

     1948 Political Ads - Harry Truman used a 1-minute ad on
     national TV but was not successful.

     1964 Soft Sell - very indirect, emotional.

     1988 Attack - Bush attacked Dukakis.  Bush won the election
     due to attack ads.

III. 1952 and the Birth of Modern Media Politics

     A.   The Way Things Were Before 1952 - politicians would shop
          around for the most popular TV or radio program.  Then 6
          weeks prior to the election, they would buy that time for
          a huge audience.  This only works 1 time.

     B.   "I Love Lucy" Changes Politics - Lucy had only one
          sponsor and decided to underwrite in order to sell to
          multiple sponsors.

     C.   The Selling of The Presidency Begins - Eisenhower bought
          30-60 second spots throughout the week.

     D.   Strategies for Ike and the Republicans

          1.   Buy Time Not Show - used demographics to see where
               weak spots were

          2.   Late Massive Media Attack - occurred the last week
               in October

     E.   Adlai and the Democrats Just Don't Get It - he was not
          good on TV.  He bought 6 weeks of a popular TV program
          slot and ended up making Americans angry and lost.

IV.  1960 and the Kennedy-Nixon Debates - first presidential debate
     since Lincoln/Douglas (1860) 

     A.   How Close Is Close in Politics?  Kennedy won by less than
          100,000 votes.

     B.   The Great Debate - TV paid a crucial role.

     C.   Style Versus Experience - Kennedy just looked like a good

     D.   Sight versus Sound:  Different Audiences - debates
          covered by both TV and radio.  Nixon did not look

V.   Nixon and "Checkers" (TV Saves a Career)

     A.   Most Interesting Politician of the Century - winner
          throughout his political career.  Won a seat in Congress
          in 1946 and was re-elected in 1948, won a Senate seat in
          1950 and in 1952.  Eisenhower asked him to be his VP
          candidate then he won in 1968 and 1972 presidential
          elections only to be forced to resign in 1974

     B.   Nixon's Little Problem in 1952 - accused of accepting
          under the table contributions.  Turned out the
          contributions were not illegal.

     C.   Nixon's Solution - The Speech

          1.   The Event - 30 minutes of TV time (largest audience
               ever).  Nixon gave a detailed disclosure of his

          2.   Man's Best Friend - Checkers was given to Trisha
               during the campaign (was seen as an illegal
               campaign contribution but won everyone's heart).

          3.   Send Those Cards and Letters ...Nixon requested
               cards and letters but was off the air when request
               was made.

     D.   Public Response - millions sent cards and letters anyway.

     E.   Did It Really Matter?  (Nixon, 1990) - in his own
          biography, he claims that the Checkers speech won his

VI.  Contemporary People's Choice (Boiney & Paletz, 1991)

     A.   Why Do People Vote the Way They Do?  In prior years,
          people voted according to race, gender, money, or
          religion but it is different now.

     B.   The Modern Model

          1.   Party ID - it is not as common for people to vote
               for one party.  The party ID is just one factor in

          2.   Group Membership - other factors of determining how
               we vote - age, income, gender, and religion

          3.   Candidate Image - candidate's character and

          4.   Issues and Positions - what does the candidate
               stand for?

     C.   Media's Role in the Modern Model - media can affect the
          candidate's image and position.

VII. Polispots and Their Stages (Diamond & Bates, 1988)

     A.   What is a Polispot?  political ads

     B.   Stages of a Campaign - there is a plan for sending
          political messages out (different goals for different
          stages).  According to the theory, if one of these stages
          are skipped then the candidate will lose.

     C.   Types of Polispots during a Campaign

          1.   ID:  Who am I?  First, the politician runs an ID
               ad.  The ad tells who they are and their
               qualifications to shape their image.  The ad does
               not address issues or their opponents.

          2.   Arguments:  What is my position?  Second, the
               politician runs an argument ad in which the issues
               and beliefs are highlighted.

          3.   Attack:  What's wrong with my opponent?  Then the
               candidate runs an attack ad to attempt to destroy
               the issues of opponents.  

          4.   Future:  "I see an America..." - These ads are
               visionary and intended to wrap up the series of

     D.   Effects of Polispots 

          1.   Image and Issue - Polispots are used to shape our
               perception of their image and issues.

          2.   Reinforce, Activate, and Convert 

          3.   Campaign Costs - lots of money spent on polispots. 
               If you don't have millions, you can't even get into
               politics today.

          4.   Weakening of Party Power - Traditional parties are
               breaking down due to polispots.  For example, Perot
               can buy his way in any time.  Old philosophy of
               working your way up through the party is

          5.   Voter Cynicism about "Selling" Politics - Ads have
               created voter cynicism.  Voters think that politics
               doesn't affect them anymore...it's all about money.

          6.   Conditions of Greatest Effect 

               How to achieve victory - spend lots of money and
               don't break the cycle of polispot stages.  In 1992,
               George Bush didn't use the correct series of
               stages...this could have cost him the victory.

VIII.The Attack Ad

     A.   Defined - political message that attacks the image or
          issue of your opponent.  

     B.   History of Attack Ads

          1.   Early Examples - Andrew Jackson's wife had not
               obtained a legal divorce from her first husband.
               While running for President, he was subjected to
               attack ads.

          2.   Modern Examples - Bush destroyed Dukakis with
               attack ads (famous Willy Horton ad).

     C.   Effects of Attack Ads

          1.   Polls and the Negativity Effect - As soon as attack
               ads are run, opinion polls show both candidates are
               viewed negatively.  If it was an effective attack
               ad, the one being attacked is viewed more

          2.   Campaign Strategy

               a.   Use attack ads - over 50% of all political ads
                    are attack ads

               b.   Want to get to the attack first but have to
                    get there the smart way.  Opponents who start
                    attacking early lose.

               c.   Is it really true?  When the ads are received
                    as inaccurate, they fail.

IX.  Defending Against Attack Ads (Pfau, et al., 1990)

     A.   Review the Attack Ad

     B.   Strategies for Coping with Attacks

          1.   Late Defense-Take the punch then come back and defend yourself  

          2.   Inoculation - Can you stop the attack before it starts?

     C.   How Inoculation Works - you bring up the problem before
          your opponent, explain that the problem is over which
          gets the audience on your side.
	  1.   Biological Metaphor

	  2.   Now Apply to Attitudes and Beliefs 

     D.   Direct Mail Study of Bush and Dukakis, 1988

          1.   Goal - randomly selected voters in ND to test the
               inoculation idea.

          2.   Method

          3.   Messages

          4.   Design - see page 138

          5.   Results - see page 138

          6.   Conclusions

               a.   Inoculation works - reduces the negative
                    effect of the attack

               b.   Clinton used it in 1992.

               c.   Bush said, "Read my lips, no new taxes."  In
                    1988, he was crushed by Clinton on

X.   The "Second" Campaign (Hallin, 1992)

     A.   Preview - there are two campaigns (the actual one and the
          campaign to manipulate the media).  Journalism realizes
          that news makes money.  Political news attracts a larger

     B.   Sound Bites (the Candidate speaks) over Time - see page

     C.   Who's Talking During the Election - see page 139

     D.   Sound Bites and the Horse Race - Since 1968, the amount
          of time politicians speak or have sound bites have
          declined sharply.  Media covers politics as if it were a
          horse race.

     E.   "Big Daddy" Media Filters The Message - especially when
          it focuses on the horse race

     F.   Candidate Response to the Filter

          1.   Massaging the Media with the Spin Doctors -
               Presidential campaigns hire spin doctors.  For
               example, after Dole makes a speech, spin doctors
               start talking to the reporters to edit the
               broadcast.  Spin doctors massage the way the
               reporters cover the news.

          2.   End Run:  Cable, Local News, Satellite Feeds -
               Politicians are trying to get away from the elites
               by using cable news, etc.

     G.   Conclusions - Are we seeing the truth? 

XI.  Wrapping it up

     A.   Modern Siamese Twins --- Media and Politics - Politics
          can not live without media or vice versa.

     B.   The Power of the Medium - If you don't handle the medium,
          they'll eat you alive.

     C.   Politics Is for the Big Kids

Back to Notes Table of Contents

Notes prepared by Teresa Jones, Spring, 1996. Page created April 21, 1996; updated on October 12, 1999. Edited by Mike Lowry Copyright © Teresa Jones and Steve Booth-Butterfield, 1996.