Investigating Persuasive Attack and Defense
The first chapter provides one context for understanding our investigation of the 1992 presidential debates: prior work on presidential debates. We adopt a new perspective for investigating presidential campaign debates, however, that of persuasive attack and defense. While a few studies discussed in the previous chapter are consistent with this approach (or offer results that suggest this perspective is promising), in understanding the debates as persuasive attack and defense we take an entirely new approach to studying this important political phenomenon. To help clarify the method we used to analyze the debates, we need to review the research on persuasive attack and defense.
In this chapter we first provide a backdrop for understanding our method. We discuss the three key dimensions (or purposes or effects) of communication--one of which is image repair. Next we advance a theory of persuasive attack, a form of discourse that attempts to damage the image, face, or reputation of another person, group, or organization. Then we describe a theory of persuasive defense, or image repair discourse, developed elsewhere, along with research applying it. These two typologies will guide our analysis of the 1992 presidential debates. The first appendix discusses specific procedures we used to analyze the debates.