Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Political Campaigns

By Ronald J. Hrebenar; Matthew J. Burbank et al. | Go to book overview

the visual setting for the commercial, as well as who the spot might appeal to--Democrats who voted for Ronald Reagan and George Bush in past elections but were concerned about the state of the economy ( Berke 1992b).

This newspaper analysis has had both positive and negative effects. On the positive side the analysis decreases the likelihood of outrageously false advertisements. Some candidates now regularly document their claims, giving the source for the statement much like footnotes in a text. However, media attempts to inform voters can run into the law of unintended consequences. For example, when viewers were shown a CNN ad watch, they developed greater sympathy for the candidate who was being scrutinized by reporters. The effect was most evident among nonpartisans. The combination of repeating the negative content of the ad and singling out the ad for criticism violated the media's norm of fairness and increased levels of alienation and cynicism among Independents ( Ansolabehere and Iyengar 1995, 139-141).

A second effect is that the media become incorporated into a candidate's advertising. If a newspaper declares a spot to be distorted or misleading, political consultants charged up with the entrepreneurial spirit are likely to seize upon those words for their candidate's next spot, attempting to put the prestige of the newspaper behind their candidate. If both candidates can use statements from the same or different newspapers to attack each other's credibility, voter confusion may simply increase.

A final difficulty is that television advertising evokes strong emotional feelings and images, often without mentioning the opponent's name. Newspapers must then attempt the very difficult task of analyzing vivid television images in cold print, knowing that the public is more likely to retain the initial image of the ad rather than the subsequent analysis ( West 1997, 96; Rothenberg 1990a).


Conclusion: Parties and Campaign Politics: An Altered Balance

In this chapter we have examined the three campaign roles that political parties play. During the period of rule by political bosses, party organization dominated candidates' campaigns. By the 1950s many candidates mounted independent operations, raising both the money and the personnel necessary for the campaign. Since the 1980s the political parties have staged a comeback of sorts, operating as an intermediary by providing such services as campaign schools and broadcasting facilities. Although showing more signs of life, parties must still compete for influence, with both the experts hired by the campaigns and interest groups.

A successful candidate today generally combines traditional and new methods of campaigning; a party organization, when it is available, can be

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