Videostyle in Presidential Campaigns: Style and Content of Televised Political Advertising

By Lynda Lee Kaid; Anne Johnston | Go to book overview

Over one-third (37%) of the distortions were specialized audio techniques. Some of the 1976 Carter spots, for instance, accelerated his voice to make it less slow and halting. The 1992 Buchanan spot mentioned earlier made a part of its distortion from the alteration of audio. In a 1988 positive spot, George Bush's handlers modified his own voice to make it sound less high and more "Reaganesque."

Table 7.3 indicates that dramatizations make up 22% of the distortions. The famous Daisy Girl ad from 1964 comes immediately to mind. In fact, many of Johnson's anti-Goldwater ads from 1964 fit this category. The "packaging the candidate" ad series by Dukakis in 1988, described earlier, also takes advantage of this technique to make the audience believe they are listening in on a Bush strategy session. In the 1996 Republican primaries, Dick Lugar's dramatization ads on nuclear terrorism were filled with the false impressions of terrorist acts, impending danger, and heightened emotions. In the "Day 1," "Day 2," and "Day 3" dramatic series, these images reach a peak that ends with a small child asking her mother, "Mommy, won't the bombs wake people up?"


SUMMARY

In this examination of a specialized aspect of the production component of videostyle, the most disturbing finding is clearly the trend to higher and higher percentages of technological distortions in recent presidential campaigns. While 19% of ads from 1952 through 1996 use some type of manipulative technique in the video production of presidential spots, the most recent 1992 and 1996 campaigns have been replete with such distortions (42-43%). The fact that these distortions occur most frequently in negative ads fuels concerns about the potentially negative consequence of attack ads in the political system, although it is only fair to note that the distortions are not unique to negative ads.

The findings do, however, indicate that the video production component of videostyle requires far more consideration and analysis. The potential for manipulation in the presentation of both candidate and opponent videostyle may be greatest in this area and could potentially offer the greatest risks to the values and goals of an informed electorate. This may be particularly true since recent research has documented that the presence of such distortions may be having the desired effects on voters--that is, distorted spots are more likely to enhance the sponsor's evaluation and vote likelihood while decreasing that of the opponent in negative spots ( Kaid, Lin, & Noggle, 1999; Kaid & Noggle, 1998).

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