The Role of Media in Elections:
Helping Students Understand Media’s Influence

by Frank Baker, media educator
(Workshops available; contact me)


describe the major types of political ads 

  • Negative – One candidate portrays the other in an unfavorable light.
  • Warm and Fuzzy – Candidates make the viewer feel good about the country or his/her campaign.
  • Humorous – Candidates elicit a laugh or smile from the viewer.
  • Scary – Candidates evoke images of fear (usually combined with a Negative ad).
  • Advocacy- advocates for/against an issue/person

explain the visual and audio techniques common to ads
(See  How Images Can Manipulate You)

understand both techniques of persuasion and advertisement appeals 

explain the relevance of media literacy in the social studies classroom
Sample questions students should consider:

  • Who produced the message ?
  • Who is speaking?
  • Whose viewpoint is not heard?
  • From whose perspective does the camera frame the events?
  • Who owns the medium being used?
  • What is our role as spectators in identifying with, or questioning what we see and hear?

-watch and deconstruct ads on video (see links in left column)

-listen as other students participate in the process of understanding the media’s role in political advertising

Preparing students:

– ask students to read some of the TIMELY NEWS ARTICLES  in order to
have sufficient background on the topic
–  ask students to read the list of QUOTES about political advertising and discuss their reactions
–  ask students to brainstorm the question: how & why do candidates use the media?
– ask students what they know about political advertising
– do they remember any of the images, words, or phrases from any of the current “spots” being broadcast?
– ask students to think about conventional advertising and the various techniques of persuasion  it uses?
how do these techniques compare with those used in political campaign advertising?
– ask students if they agree that “the candidate with the most money (who can purchase the most broadcasting time) always wins?”

REVISED download this Political Advertising Analysis Worksheet  

See also this Television Commercial Analysis Chart (pdf)

NEW Recommended reading: Voters Assailed By Unfair Persuasion

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