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Title:Seeing is Believing: The Strategy Behind Campaign Imagery and its Impact on Voters
Author(s):Swigger, Nathaniel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Kuklinski, James H.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Althaus, Scott L.; Gaines, Brian J.; Sulkin, Tracy E.
Department / Program:Political Science
Discipline:Political Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):political behavior
political psychology
campaign ads
campaign strategy
Abstract:As television ads have become the primary tool of communication in American campaigns, research on campaign effects has focused more and more attention on how these ads influence the electorate. Little attention has been paid, however, to the visual content of these ads. Despite a format that delivers an enormous quantity of visual information, most research has focused only on the words spoken during the ad and the little research done on campaign images has focused only on emotional effects. But can voters learn something with the sound turned off? Do voters use campaign images to make inferences about a candidate’s issue positions and ideology? I use a multi-method approach to examine how voters use the information contained in campaign imagery to learn about the candidate. While most campaign strategists focus on voters’ social identities when designing the look of campaign ads, I find little evidence that viewers respond to campaign images based on identity congruence. Instead, people use the images shown in an ad to make substantive inferences about the candidate, and they incorporate those inferences into their overall evaluation of the candidate in the same way that they would use an explicit verbal statement. Because of the power of images within ads and their relatively low cost (practically and strategically), political candidates can realize enormous benefits by designing campaign images that appeal to voters’ policy preferences.
Issue Date:2009-08-22
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Peer Reviewed:not peer reviewed
Date Available in IDEALS:2009-08-22

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