The 1992 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective

By Robert E. Denton Jr. | Go to book overview

5

Political Advertising in the 1992 Campaign

Lynda Lee Kaid

After the excessive attention focused on paid television advertising in the 1988 campaigns, expectations about the role that television spots would play in the 1992 presidential campaign were very high. Researchers and political observers alike had attributed a great deal of Bush's success in his 1988 campaign to his skillful use of television advertising to create a positive image for himself and a negative image for Michael Dukakis (Devlin, 1989; Grove, 1988; Martz et al., 1988; Kaid, Leland, and Whitney, 1992). In this chapter we consider the extent to which the 1992 ads lived up to expectations by examining the content and characteristics, styles and strategies of the 1992 advertising campaigns from the primary and general election campaigns. After a brief overview of the prior research on political advertising, this analysis of the 1992 ad campaigns draws on several original datasets, including the University of Oklahoma's Political Commercial Archive Catalog Database, an extensive content analysis of the 1992 general election commercials, and the results of experimental tests of general election commercials using continuous computerized audience-response data.


POLITICAL ADVERTISING:
EXPECTATIONS FROM RESEARCH

Although the first presidential campaign to make extensive use of television spots was the 1952 Eisenhower campaign, academic researchers did not show much interest in the subject until nearly twenty years later. However, since the early 1970s, researchers have concentrated considerable attention on political advertising. Although it is always difficult with social science research methods to establish strict causal relationships, the body of research on political advertising has established strong evidence that political television spots do have a verifiable effect on the American political system. In fact, political television ads may

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