In Chapter 11, we made the case that changing communication styles, formats, and technologies affect public opinion processes. Mass media in particular have significantly altered how we view, think about, and respond to our political world. Now we turn to one specific media-related process— the highly visible and pragmatic issue of communication campaigns. We will dwell later in this chapter on the most obvious type of public opinion‐ directed campaign: promoting candidates in elections for public office. But first we put these campaigns in the broader context of more common kinds of campaigns that influence everything from our purchasing habits to health practices to cultural myths. We will first examine the overall domain of campaigns aimed at creating or altering public opinion and then focus on the central role of campaigns in elections. In both cases, we will discuss the purposes and practice of contemporary campaigns and how well they seem to work. We will also examine an underlying tension between the effects campaigns may have on individual attitudes and behaviors and their less obvious but sometimes more consequential impact upon the society as a whole.
Communication campaigns try to " (1) generate specific outcomes or effects (2) in a relatively large number of individuals, (3) usually within a specified period of time and (4) through an organized set of communication activities."1 This definition fits a multitude of persuasive situations we are all too familiar with as media consumers today.