The Electronic Election: Perspectives on the 1996 Campaign Communication

By Lynda Lee Kaid; Dianne G. Bystrom | Go to book overview

that emphasized issues. The same trend appears to have been true for the general election, as 65% of Dole's and 87% of Clinton's ads were issue-oriented, yet only 37% of network news stories dealt with issues ("Media Coverage," 1996; see also Lichter, Noyes, & Kaid, chap. 1, this volume).

It is difficult to say, in the end, how much of an effect the ads had on this campaign. Clinton ran the most negative advertising campaign in the history of presidential ads, and voters rewarded him with reelection. At the same time, Clinton benefited from a concentration on issues, even in his negative ads, and that is something else voters say they value. Perhaps, when it comes to making a decision, voters really do weigh these various aspects of a campaign or perhaps Clinton simply succeeded in convincing voters that he was less negative than Dole, a perception that polls frequently reinforced ( Bennet, 1996). Clinton's advertising strategy was a well-thoughtout one, and it was characterized by continuity that capitalized on the President's incumbent status. Most all political observers would agree that Clinton had the most difficult "character" problem in the election. Yet he succeeded in coopting not only the Republican and conservative issue agenda, but also the "moral high ground" by accusing Dole of being negative and attacking the President.

Much like his advertising campaign in 1992, Clinton utilized both traditional incumbent and challenger strategies in his spots. Clinton effectively utilized a videostyle that created a successful self-presentation. The combined verbal, nonverbal, and video production aspects of his ads served to present to the U.S. people a presidential candidate who, if not completely trustworthy, at least seemed to offer the hope, promise, and leadership necessary for a stronger United States.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We acknowledge the financial support of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate and the PEW Trust.

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