Political Breadcrumbs

It is early to say exactly where the research will take my final paper for IDC 6010 this semester, but I am interested in examining the communication strategies that we have watched evolve over the course of the 2016 Presidential campaign. The Republican candidate provides new extreme examples every few days, but noticeable unconventional communication response style changes have emerged from nearly every candidate at some point during this election cycle. Is this just a by-product of the growth of social media or is social media simply one of the vehicles that carry out a transitioning approach whose germination we can now spot signs of in past election cycles? My hope is that some of the following sources will serve as bread crumbs along the path to better understanding what we are witnessing.


Borrowed from Pixabay: CC0

Ø  Panagopoulos, C. (2016). All about that base: Changing campaign strategies in U.S. Presidential elections. Party Politics, 22(2), 179-190. doi:10.1177/1354068815605676

The author in this study examines what he contends has been a growing shift in partisan campaign strategies, moving from an approach that focuses on persuading independent, undecided, or swing voters to one that emphasizes mobilization of its base. He contends that this shift has “likely contributed to intensifying partisan polarization in America”. (Search term: presidential election strategies)

Ø  Polsby, N. W., & Wildavsky, A. B. (2000). Presidential Elections : Strategies and Structures of American Politics. New York: Chatham House Publishers.

There are actually newer editions of this book, but since this one predates the 2000 election I believe it may provide an interesting contrast between trends they were already seeing compared to what it transitioned into. This may raise another question. If they accurately forewarned of what was to come, should we look closer and future predictions today? Could the course of those predictions be altered?  (Search term: presidential election strategies)

Ø  Cho, J., & Ha, Y. (2012). On the Communicative Underpinnings of Campaign Effects: Presidential Debates, Citizen Communication, and Polarization in Evaluations of Candidates. Political Communication, 29(2), 184-204. doi:10.1080/10584609.2012.671233

Here the author turns the table on how he looks at presidential debates. Instead of focusing just on what the candidate says in debates, he examines the effects of what was said in terms of post-citizen communication. Since today’s social media response is immediately measureable, via trending stats and other such tools, do we see growing responsiveness to the citizens’ communication? Is that driving the compounding of the message repetition, as opposed to some predesigned campaign strategy of beating the talking points drum?

Ø  Kraus, S. (1996). Winners of the first 1960 televised presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon. Journal Of Communication, (4), 78.

I think a look at presidential campaign communications inherently involves a study of the constituent responses. The ultimate response, of course, is the vote (or lack of) and for an increasingly long period prior to the primary election it is measured by an endless procession of polls. Infamously, one of the earlier signs of the visual impact of presidential communications was the result of the first televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960. Radio listeners thought Nixon won, while television viewers gave the nod to the younger, handsomer Kennedy. The transition, or some might say decline, to today’s approach to presidential communication may have its roots in that faithful night. (Search term: presidential debate visuals Kennedy Nixon)

I look forward to the destination that these sources, and others, may take me, however, if the communication trend continues in the direction of the last few elections then I loathe the start of the 2020 Presidential campaign. If trends hold, the cycle could start within days of the next president taking office.


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