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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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20

Political TV Advertising and Debates

William L. Benoit and Jayne R. Henson

ABSTRACT

This essay begins by justifying the importance of two particular forms of political campaign communication, TV advertising spots and debates. Advertising spots and debates are two especially prominent forms of messaging in political campaigns and there is extensive research evidence regarding their role and the outcomes associated with each. Thus we sketch the nature of these key campaign message forms, focusing on the two dimensions of functions and topics. Then we discuss the historic controversy over minimal effects. This leads to a discussion of the effects of these important message forms, which is based on meta-analyses of these media.

Importance of TV Spots and Debates in Contemporary Society

For more than a century US political candidates have campaigned actively for the office of president. Indeed, in 2008 Barack Obama became the first candidate to decline federal financing for the general election campaign. He did so because accepting the federal funds meant he would be limited to spending $84.1 million on his campaign (FEC, 2010). Declining federal financing meant he could spend as much as he could raise; he spent $760.1 million, $427.6 million on media (Center for Responsive Politics, 2010). Others had declined to accept federal campaign funds for the presidential primary (e.g., George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004; Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Mitt Romney in 2008; Lawrence ...

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