Summary and Info
Benoit provides a comprehensive analysis of presidential television spots from every campaign that used this important message form, from the 1952 campaign through the last national campaign in 1996. More than 1,600 presidential spots are analyzed, from both primary and general campaigns. Republican, Democratic, and third party candidate advertisements are analyzed. He uses the Functional Theory of Political Campaign Discourse, analyzing themes in spots as acclaims (self-praise), attacks (criticism), and defenses (responses to attacks). Themes are classified according to topic. Each of these topics is broken down further (policy: past deeds, future plans, general goals; character: personal qualities, leadership ability, ideals). Contrasts are made between spots from Republicans and Democrats as well as third parties, incumbents and challengers, and winners and losers. The spots from candidates who led, trailed, or were in close races also are contrasted. Spots are becoming more negative over time, Benoit concludes, in both primary and general campaigns. General campaigns are more negative than primary campaigns, Democrats are more negative than Republicans, and challengers are more negative than incumbents. There are no differences between winners and losers. However, candidates who trailed throughout the campaign were most negative, while candidates in close races were most positive. An important analysis for scholars and researchers in political communication and American presidential politics.
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