A Content Analysis of CNN "Inside Politics" Adwatch Coverage of High-Profile, Nonpresidential Races
Robert H. Gobetz University of Indianapolis
Mike Chanslor Truman State University
Students of political campaigning have long recognized the difficulties in creating effective, memorable messages for their candidates. Political campaigns themselves are only temporary organizations, with the sole goal of preserving delicate voting coalitions long enough to elect their candidates. It must seem like a godsend when an easily managed mechanism is found that enhances the effectiveness and memorability of the campaign's message. Such a mechanism is the negative political television advertisement-- the attack ad--now standard practice in the modern political campaign. They are valuable to politicians, in part, because they bypass traditional gatekeepers of campaign information (i.e., journalists), thus allowing candidates and their campaigns to propagate their own messages without modification. Negative television advertisements also have been shown to be tremendously effective, especially when there are large numbers of undecided voters and when races are considered to be a dead heat (see Chanslor, Hovind, & Kaid, 1992; Garramone, 1983; Kaid, Gobetz, Garner, Leland, & Scott, 1993; Kaid & Johnston, 1991a; Robinson, 1978). Candidates run the risk, however, of attacking their opponents without just cause, relying on deceptive practices rather than those based on sound argument ( Hinerfeld, 1990).
Candidates who appear to bypass journalists intentionally are criticized by the media, who are prevented from assuming their traditional watchdog role. Along with television advertisements, "Rose Garden" strategies have been used frequently by numerous presidents to bypass the media. For