Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Psychology of campaign ads and other election stories

It's time for the next installment of election news from campuses on the campaign trail.  I begin with an article from The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that I used as the top story of last Saturday's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Psychology of Campaign Ads) on Daily Kos.*

Psychology behind the political ads
What ads say, what ads mean and how the messages stick with us
By Erin Jordan, The Gazette
Published: October 19 2014
CEDAR RAPIDS — Television these days is filled with drama, name-calling and emotional button-pushing.

And those are just the political ads.

The Gazette asked Iowa political scientists, communications experts and psychologists to analyze the tactics used in political ads that have been blistering the Eastern Iowa airwaves. Amid the heartfelt testimonials, mudslinging attacks and goofy spots with national actors are some new strategies for 2014.

“We break down ads looking at verbals, nonverbals and video production style,” explained Dianne Bystrom, director of Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. “Men and women running against each other have adapted styles that are very similar to one another.”
Here are some of the other findings from the article, beginning with my favorite.
Parties prioritize different values

Conservative candidates tend to play up the group mentality more than liberals, said Daryl Cameron, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. He pointed to Ernst and other Republicans drawing attention to Braley’s gaffe of apparently criticizing veteran U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley for not having a law degree.

“Ernst is trying to push buttons by saying, ‘He (Braley) isn’t one of us, he’s betraying the group,’” Cameron said.

Liberals, on the other hand, tend to emphasize fairness and distribution of resources over other values, he said.
Yes, the major parties really are different.  ideologies and interest groups matter to American political parties, although Duverger's Law mostly limits the choices to two.

What about a factor that transcends party?
When male and female political candidates face off, they talk about a different set of issues than in male-versus-male races, Bystrom said.

Bystrom, who has been studying mixed-gender elections for U.S. Senate that have occurred since 1990, said these races traditionally have focused more on education, Social Security and health care. An all-male race might include more discussion of war and crime.

The economy, she said, has become gender neutral.
The sexes are different, too.

The article includes more findings, such as why negative ads work, how fear and disgust play a part in politics (see the video at the end of Food Fight! Thoughts on liberalism and conservatism inspired by the Preface to Food, Inc. for how these work better on conservatives), and how a dialog of sorts can be achieved with campaign ads.  It also offers this helpful note.
If the negative ads are getting you down, take heart. As we get closer to the Nov. 4 election, Iowans should see the return of the positive ads, experts said.

And after Election Day, we’ll get back to the usual commercials using psychology to sell us cars, prescription drugs and junk food.
To say nothing of getting us to buy Christmas presents.  Ah, the stink of retail desperation!

Follow over the jump for more election stories from campuses on the campaign trail.

Southern Illinois University: Poll: Illinois gubernatorial race ‘tied’
October 17, 2014
Democrat Illinois Governor Pat Quinn enjoys a two and one-half point lead among registered voters over Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, according to the latest statewide poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

However, when likely voters are asked for their preference, Rauner holds the two-point lead.

“It’s a tied race,” David Yepsen, institute director, said.  “No one can predict from these numbers who will win. It’s likely to be close on election night and every vote will be important.”
University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth: UMass Dartmouth hosts gubernatorial debate October 17
Political Science Professor Shannon Jenkins to moderate

The two major party nominees for governor, Republican Charlie Baker and Democrat Martha Coakley, have committed to attend an October 17 debate at UMass Dartmouth hosted by the SouthCoast Alliance, a consortium of media, business, and community organizations.

The debate will begin at 4 p.m. and take place in the Main Auditorium. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. and the debate's programming will start at 3:40 p.m.

The debate will be moderated by UMass Dartmouth Political Science Chairperson Professor Shannon Jenkins. Professor Jenkins' research focuses on American public policy and state and local politics, with a specific emphasis upon state legislatures and political parties. She has published several articles on a variety of topics in American politics in journals such as Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Urban Affairs Review.
Iowa State University: Mock campaign gives Iowa State students new perspective on political process
Posted Oct 21, 2014 8:45 am
Voters only get a glimpse of the operation behind a political campaign, even with all the negative ads and 24-7 news coverage. And a textbook or class lecture cannot replicate the pressure of giving a stump speech to voters, answering questions from reporters, or responding to a crisis.

To expose students to that environment, Kelly Winfrey turned her campaign rhetoric class into a mock U.S. Senate campaign. Winfrey, a lecturer in leadership education for the Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, wants students to understand the strategy behind every decision a campaign makes and the consequences, intended or unintended, of those decisions.

“I think they develop a better understanding of why and how campaign decisions are made in the real world. Even though it’s a mock campaign, they have to think strategically about what they want to say, how they’re going to say it, and how the opponent might use what they say against them,” Winfrey said. “Candidates have to be strategic in their messaging if they’re going to win an election. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what a candidate might achieve in office, if they lose.”
Remember, election day is one week away.  Vote!

*This topic should look familiar to my long-time readers.  I posted The psychology of campaign ads plus a bad sign for representative democracy a little over two years ago.  It's one of the entries I plan on covering in one last retrospective of the second year of the blog.

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