Lynda Lee Kaid University of Oklahoma
Political communication traces its roots to the earliest formal studies of communication. Classical studies from the time of Plato and Aristotle were interested in communication as it affected the political and legal institutions of the day. As a modern field of study, political communication, while incorporating this earlier focus, is an interdisciplinary field embracing concepts from communication, political science, journalism, sociology, psychology, history, and others. Unlike many of the traditional areas of study, political communication reflects communication theory, concern, and research from both mass and human approaches to commmunication.
Although propaganda studies ( Doob, 1950) and early empirical voting behavior studies by sociologists ( Lazarsfeld, Berelson, & Gaudet, 1944; Berelson, Lazarsfeld, & McPhee, 1954) can be labeled political communication studies, Nimmo and Sanders ( 1981) suggest in their seminal Handbook of Political Communication that political communication emerged as distinctly cross-disciplinary in the 1950s. Many definitions of political communication have been advanced, but none has gained universal acceptance. Perhaps the best is the simplest-- Chaffee ( 1975) offering that political communication is the "role of communication in the political process" (p. 15) suffices.