+
Politics and Media 4: Message War

Politics and Media 4: Message War

Author: Amee Wittbrodt
Description:
  • Understand, analyze, evaluate, and use different types of print, digital, and multimodal media.
  • Critically analyze information found in electronic, print, and mass media and use a variety of these sources.
  • Gain an understanding of the 3 key concepts to better understand the language of political ads.
  • View several political ads and classify each one according to the 3 key concepts.
  • Analyze the effect loaded language has on viewers.
  • Analyze the effect syntax has on viewers.
  • Analyze the effect repetition has on viewers.

This packet is fourth in a series about politics and mass media.

Students will discover how repetition, syntax, and loaded language are used in political advertisements by reading and viewing several historical ads.

(more)
See More
Try a College Course Free

Sophia’s self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

Understanding the Language of Political Ads

There are 3 key concepts that will help you better understand the language of political ads: Repetition, Syntax, and Loaded Language.

3 Key Concepts

 

REPETITION

  • Repeating a word or phrase over and over.
  • Good way to drive a message home.
  • Jingles or slogans.
  • Intended to keep a word or phrase in the monds of the viewers.
  • The more times viewers hear a name, word, or phrase, the more likely they are to remember it.

 

EXAMPLE #1

Commercial from Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign

“Here’s the difference between the two ways of dealing with the nation’s economy. With Reaganomics, you cut taxes. With Mondalenomics, you raise taxes. Reaganomics: You cut deficits through growth and less government. Mondalenomics: You raise taxes. With Reaganomics, you create incentives that move us all forward. With Mondalenomics, you raise taxes. They both work. The difference is Reaganomics works for you. Mondalenomics works against you.”

EXAMPLE #2 (Click to view)

Obama Ad "Yes We Can (Web)," William and Jesse Dylan, 2008. Original air date: 02/07/08

 

 

SYNTAX

  • Short, incomplete sentence length or long, lyrical sentence length.
  • The syntax, or grammatical structure of words, used in political ads can achieve different purposes when used in different ways. Some ads, particularly older ones, favor complex, lengthy, complete sentences. This method requires more thought and attention on the part of the viewer, but often presents a more complete picture of the candidate.
  • Others utilize fragments or phrases, which are easily accessible to the viewer, but may not fully explain the candidate’s position.

 

EXAMPLE #1

Accomplishment” (Bill Clinton, 1996)

“Ten million new jobs. Family income up $1600. President Clinton cut the deficit 60 percent. Signed welfare reform—requiring work, time limits. Taxes cut for 15 million families. Balancing the budget. America’s moving forward with an economic plan that works. Bob Dole: $900 billion in higher taxes. Republicans call him a tax collector for the welfare state. His risky tax scheme would raise taxes on 9 million families. Bob Dole. Wrong in the past. Wrong for our future.”

EXAMPLE #2 (Click to view)

McCain ad “Global," John McCain 2008, air date: 06/16/08

 

 

LOADED LANGUAGE

  • The use of “loaded” language—words with strong positive or negative emotional associations—is a long-standing tradition in political advertising.
  • The use of positive and negative words is more than a technique of partisan attack. It is an important strategy used by candidates and advisers of both parties to sway voter opinion.

 

EXAMPLE #1

Eisenhower

Even in the earliest commercials, Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to a nation that was “sinking deeper into a bottomless sea of debt” and characterized Democrats as unable to “keep their confused heads above water.” This negative language was used to cast doubt on his opponent, Adlai Stevenson. At the same time, Eisenhower extended the metaphor favorably for himself by touting the “sturdy lifeboat” that the Republicans would build.

EXAMPLE #2 (Click to view)

McCain ad "Taxman" 2008

Obama ad "No Maverick" 2008

Discussion Questions

  1. T/F? Loaded language includes both positive and negative words.
  2. T/F? The more times you hear a name, word, or phrase, the LESS likely you are to remember it.
  3. T/F? The syntax used in political ads can achieve different purposes when used in different ways.
  4. T/F? Syntax includes only short and choppy sentences.
  5. T/F? An ad made up of complex, lengthy, sentences requires more thought and attention on the part of the viewer, but often presents a more complete picture of the candidate.
  6. Watch the video. What is this ad an example of? McCain ad "2013" 2008
  7. Watch the video. What is this ad an example of? Obama ad "Hands" 2008
  8. Watch the video. What is this ad an example of? Reagan ad "Record" 1980
  9. Watch the video. What is this ad an example of? Nixon "Russia" 1972
  10. Syntax- What effect does the use of short sentences create? Why would a candidate choose to give a short, simple answer instead of a long one?
  11. Loaded Language- What is the major difference between using positive words over negative words? In the two example campaign videos you watched using loaded language, both used negative words (at the top). Would the message have changed if they used positive words?