Seeing Spots: A Functional Analysis of Presidential Television Advertisements, 1952-1996

By William L. Benoit | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is a continuation of a research program that began when Bill Wells asked me to direct a research practicum (all Ph.D. students in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri are required to conduct research with a faculty mentor) on the 1992 presidential debates. That project extended my past work on persuasive defense (image repair) ( Benoit, 1995a) by investigating persuasive attack and defense in those debates ( Benoit & Wells, 1996). Subsequently, Joe Blaney, Penni Pier, and Bill Wells worked with me to extend this approach to include acclaiming (self-praise, a concept developed by P. J. Benoit, 1997) along with attacking and defending. We analyzed nominating convention acceptance addresses from 1960 to 1996 ( Benoit, Wells, Pier, & Blaney, in press), keynote speeches from 1960 to 1996 ( Benoit, Blaney & Pier, 1996), television spots from 1980 to 1996 ( Benoit, Pier, & Blaney, 1997), and the 1996 presidential campaign ( Benoit, Blaney, & Pier, 1998). I also analyzed the 1960 presidential debates with Allison Harthcock (Benoit & Harthcock, 1998). Bill Wells' dissertation is extending our work on presidential debates by analyzing acclaims, attacks, and defenses in the 1976, 1980, and 1984 debates (in progress). I wanted to extend our initial study of presidential television spots ( Benoit, Pier, & Blaney, 1997) in four ways, and that is the subject of this study.

First, I wanted to go back to the very beginning, studying every presidential campaign that used television spots. Other research (e.g., Kaid & Johnston, 1991; West, 1997) used samples that were limited (as I discuss in detail in the Appendix). Second, I wanted to include both primary and general spots in the same study. When one of the major party candidates is weak (e.g., presidents Ford in 1976, Carter in 1980, or Bush in

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