Television and Political Advertising: Psychological Processes - Vol. 1

By Frank Biocca | Go to book overview

1 In Search of the Model: Political Science Versus Political Advertising Perspectives on Voter Decision Making

John Boiney David L. Paletz Duke University

Voting is at the heart of democracy. Naturally and inevitably, various political thinkers have long labored to identify and explain the crucial determinants of Americans' voting decisions. From the Columbia school in 1940, down to the present, social scientists have sought not only to unravel but also to model the processes by which voters make their choices.

Certain political activists have been struggling with the same task even longer, attempting to influence election outcomes by using the media to communicate with the voters. Known nowadays as campaign consultants or perhaps more colloquially as "media gurus," they too possess, at least implicitly, models of the voters' decision-making processes.

Surprisingly, the models of these two groups have never been compared, nor their differences and similarities mapped and explained. It is to such a comparative task that this chapter is devoted.

To facilitate comparison of the models, we need to establish common terms. There are five elements found in most political science models that are of continuing theoretical importance. These are partisan identification, candidate issue positions, candidate image, voter group membership, and retrospective voting. These have also been explored, although more indirectly and sporadically, in the political advertising literature. We deploy them to organize analysis throughout the chapter and directly to compare the political science to the political advertising models.

The chapter is divided into three sections. First, we review the major

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