Hope and the Path to the Presidency: A Historical Analysis... Appeals in Presidential Campaigns


Hope and the Path to the Presidency: A Historical Analysis of the use of Hope
Appeals in Presidential Campaigns
Erica Shapiro Goldman
A Capstone Project
Presented to The Faculty of the School of Communication In Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Arts in Public Communication
Supervisor: Prof. Lauren Feldman
April 26, 2011
Erica Goldman
I would like to thank my mother, Nancy Shapiro, father, Robert Goldman and sister, Arielle
Goldman for their constant encouragement along this journey- I cannot explain how much your
confidence has meant to me.
I would like to thank Professor Feldman for her guidence, advice and reassuring words
throughout this project.
I would like to thank my friends for their continued support, helpful suggestions and the comic
relief they have provided me during this time.
The American Dream is an ideal which is intrinsic to those who live in the United States.
This yearning for a better future has been everlasting through America’s history because of the
emotional pull of hope. Regardless of the impact hope has had on this nation’s political history
and evolution, the emotion has largely been unstudied. This capstone researches the use of hope
appeals in successful, modern presidential campaigns, taking into consideration the economic
state of the nation, as well as the effect of international crises on the focal campaigns. This
research attempts to use these results to identify a sequence of emotions and circumstances
surrounding hope-based campaigns. The campaigns studied for this capstone include John F.
Kennedy’s 1960 campaign, Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign, Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, and
Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Ultimately, this research is used to give Barack Obama
recommendations for which emotional appeal to use in the upcoming 2012 campaign.
Table of Contents
LIST OF FIGURES ........................................................................................................................ i
LITERATURE REVIEW ..............................................................................................................6
Emotional Appeals........................................................................................................................6
Emotional Appeals and Political Campaigns................................................................................8
Positive Emotional Appeals ........................................................................................................11
Hope Appeals..............................................................................................................................11
Hope Appeals and American Political Campaigns .....................................................................13
The Economy and Political Campaigns ......................................................................................15
International Relations and Political Campaigns ........................................................................16
METHODOLOGY .......................................................................................................................18
Historical Analysis......................................................................................................................18
RESULTS ......................................................................................................................................20
Kennedy ......................................................................................................................................20
Kennedy’s New Frontier.........................................................................................................20
Eisenhower’s Fear...................................................................................................................22
The Economy of the Eisenhower- Kennedy Era ....................................................................24
International Turmoil- The Cold War Years ..........................................................................26
Johnson’s Campaign ...............................................................................................................27
Reagan’s The Time is Now ....................................................................................................29
Carter’s Mixed Emotions........................................................................................................32
The Economy ..........................................................................................................................34
International Turmoil- Pressure in the Middle East................................................................36
Reagan’s Re-election Campaign- It’s Morning in America ...................................................37
Clinton- The Man from Hope .................................................................................................40
Bush’s Fear .............................................................................................................................43
It’s the Economy Stupid! ........................................................................................................45
International Crises in a Post-Cold War Era...........................................................................47
Clinton’s Run for Re-Election ................................................................................................47
Obama .........................................................................................................................................49
Obama’s Hope ........................................................................................................................49
Bush’s Fear .............................................................................................................................52
The Economy ..........................................................................................................................54
International Turmoil ..............................................................................................................56
Obama in 2012- Win the Future .............................................................................................57
DISCUSSION ................................................................................................................................60
Figure 1. Economy and Major Events 1955- 1965 ....................................................................25
Figure 2. Economy and Major Events 1975- 1985 .....................................................................36
Figure 3. Economy and Major Events 1987- 1997 .....................................................................46
Figure 4. Economy and Major Events 2003- 2011 .....................................................................56
The United States was founded on an idea which has been classified as the
American Dream. Families have traveled from across the world to this nation in hopes of
achieving the American Dream, and of creating a better future for the generations to
come. This notion of the American Dream, which has evolved through the years, has
been bound by the common thread of hoping for a better future. The American Dream
has been a constant through this country’s history because of the unyielding power of
Despite the important role hope has played in the founding and sustaining of this
country, there has been very little research done on the effects of political messages that
appeal to the emotion of hope (Nabi, 2002). Only in the past two decades have emotional
appeals, meaning the use of stimuli to evoke an emotion, and their effects on persuasion
and decision-making, begun to be explored by psychologists, political scientists, and
communication practitioners (Brader, 2006). In the little research that has been conducted
on emotional appeals, only a fraction of the focus has been given to the emotional appeal
of hope (Nabi, 2002).
This capstone takes a closer look at hope and its continued role in American
politics. Specifically, the pages that follow discuss the role of hope as an emotional
appeal in the political campaigns of modern American history, and attempts to determine
whether there are commonalities across these campaigns that can help explain the success
of hope appeals. For the purpose of this paper, the definition of hope given by Robin L.
Nabi (2002) will be used to describe hope appeals, explaining that hope “represents a
desire for a better situation than what currently exists, often when the odds are against a
positive outcome” (p. 297).
The campaigns analyzed in this capstone include those of presidential candidates
of John F. Kennedy (1960), Ronald Reagan (1980), Bill Clinton (1992), and Barack
Obama (2008). All four of these campaigns were organized around the emotion of hope.
Kennedy highlighted hope throughout his campaign, beginning with his announcement to
run for candidacy stating that in the Presidency “are centered the hopes of the globe
around us for freedom and a more secure life” (Kennedy, 1960). The 1960 presidential
campaign was also the first presidential campaign in which television played a major
role, and Americans across the country were able to view campaign messages on a broad
scale (Carpini, 1993). In the 1980 campaign, Reagan elicited the emotion of hope
through his passionate speeches and advertisements describing his wishes to restore hope
in America. Clinton, in 1992, began his campaign with his narrative “A Man from Hope”
(Grunwald, 2011). And finally, in the most recent presidential campaign, in 2008, Obama
set his hopeful agenda early with his visionary book, The Audacity of Hope (Obama,
2006). Not only do these four presidential candidates stand out in using hope as a focal
point in their campaign strategy, but they were also successful in doing so, meaning these
candidates won those campaigns. Additionally, Presidents Reagan and Clinton were both
re-elected for their second term; President Kennedy was, unfortunately, assassinated
before the end of his first term, and President Obama has yet to run for his second. Once
an analysis detailing elements of these campaigns has been presented, recommendations
will be made as to what emotional appeals might be the most effective, based on the
components and contexts of the prior campaigns, for use in President Obama’s 2012
This study is important to the field of communication because, as previously
mentioned, very little research has been conducted on emotional appeals and specifically
the topic of hope appeals (Nabi, 2002; Brader, 2006). Prior to the 1970s, and around the
time when television advertisements became popular, it was widely believed by students
of politics and communication that “mass media and election campaigns exert minimal
influence on citizens” (Brader, 2006). Additionally, psychologists at this time began to
deemphasize “the role of ‘affect’ in human decision making and… largely left emotions
out of their explanations” (Brader, 2006). It is for these main reasons that, until recently,
the study of emotion has been emphasized so little.
It was not until the 1990s that emotions were studied in more detail as an
influencer in persuasion (Brader, 2006). Still, with this recent acknowledgment that
emotions do play a key role in affecting individuals’ decision making, certain emotions,
such as fear, have been given more precedence, while others, like hope, have been largely
left out of these studies (Nabi, 2002). As Nabi (2002) points out, research is still needed
on hope and the contexts in which hope appeals are used. For this reason it is important
for the field of communication to develop a deeper understanding of hope as an
emotional appeal and of the implications of using hope appeals to influence political
decision making.
Additionally, this study will be beneficial in helping to assess when hope appeals
will be effective in political campaigns, based on the analysis and comparison of the
broader context of past hope-based campaigns. In addition to adding to our limited
understanding of hope appeals, this, too, will be important, and useful knowledge in
terms of strategizing how best to position President Obama for success in the upcoming
2012 campaign.
The following section of this paper explains the related theories and research.
This literature review begins by discussing the role of emotional appeals in general,
followed by the role of emotional appeals in a political context. Next, the literature
review explains the role of positive emotional appeals generally, followed by the role of
hope appeals generally, and then will narrow to explain the role of hope appeals in
politics. Following this, the implications of the economy on political campaigns are
discussed. Finally, this section will review the impact of foreign involvement in terms of
political campaigns.
Following the literature review, a brief analysis of the methodology used to gather
the data is explained. Then the results of the historical reviews of the central campaigns
are detailed. Included in these reviews is an examination of the campaign messages by
the focal candidates exemplifying hope appeals. Next, an analysis of the emotional
appeals used in the presidential campaign immediately prior to the hope-based campaign
is reviewed. This is followed by an analysis of the economic status of the country and (if
applicable) the US involvement in international conflicts of the time leading up to the
election years of 1960, 1980, 1992 and 2008, as well as in the first term of the candidates
being studied. This is followed by an analysis of the emotional appeals used in the
election cycle directly following these years. This is done in order to tell if there is a
sequence, or pattern, that emerges around the use of hope appeals.
Of particular interest is whether there is a sequence of emotional appeals used in
campaigns around hope. A chief objective of this analysis is to attempt to discover what
emotional appeal techniques could be used after hope appeals in political campaigns.
Specifically, the goal is to develop recommendations of what emotional appeal (if any)
would work for the Obama campaign in the 2012 election, based on what seems to be the
context of the country currently, and to offer recommendations for his political strategy in
this way.
This section includes a review of theory and research relevant to understanding
emotional appeals generally, the role of emotional appeals in political campaigns,
positive emotional appeals, hope appeals in general, and hope appeals in relation to
political campaigns. Additionally, this section reviews the research on the role of the
economy in presidential campaigns as well as the affect of American involvement in
international conflicts on political campaigns.
Emotional Appeals
This section discusses the techniques of using emotional appeals, and their
affects. Emotion is the internal response which occurs in reaction to an event, agent or
object (for the remainder of this paper, “events, agents or objects” will be referred to as
stimuli) (Nabi, 2002). This response can be positive or negative, and differs between
individuals based on the perceived relevance of the stimulus to the individual
experiencing it (Brader, 2005). This differing response occurs when the brain processes
these stimuli and decides their importance (Brader, 2005). For the purpose of this paper,
the term “emotional appeal” refers to persuasive message stimuli that evoke emotion.
Thus, the term “fear appeal” refers to a message stimulus that evokes the emotion of fear,
and so forth.
As mentioned earlier in this paper, emotions, and their role in message processing
and persuasion have only recently begun to be explored (Nabi, 2002). Emotional appeals
can be expressed in many ways including verbal appeals (utilizing writing or speaking),
non-verbal appeals (utilizing sight, facial expression, sound, etc.), or through events
which occur (Roseman, Abelson, Ewing, 1986; Nabi, 2002).
Emotion can be induced in one of three ways, directly, through memory, and
indirectly (Damasio, 1999). In the first way, a recipient can process the stimulus directly
and feel an emotion (Damasio, 1999). An example of this is when a person sees their dog
and feels happy. The second way is when an individual has a memory of a stimulus and
feel an emotion (Damasio, 1999). Such an example is when the individual thinks of their
dog and feels happy. Finally, the individual may indirectly feel the emotion. In this case,
an individual sees their dog and becomes happy, but something gets in the individual’s
way of getting to their dog. At this point the individual feels frustration or anger towards
the obstacle, and no longer feels happy- a second and opposing emotion is felt as a result
(Damasio, 1999).
Theories have been developed in an attempt to explain the effects or uses of
emotion. Functional theories on emotion have developed to explain the functions, if any,
that emotions serve (Keltner & Gross, 1999). One view is that emotions have no useful
purpose, and interfere with logic and reasoning (Keltner & Gross, 1999). Alternately,
others theorize that emotions help guide individuals’ behaviors (Keltner & Gross, 1999;
Nabi 2002). According to some functional emotion theories, the behaviors made in
response to emotional feelings serve as adaptive functions which have developed through
evolution (Nabi, 2002; Westen, 2007). Based on this concept, Nabi (2002) states that
many emotions have “unique appraisal patterns, motivational functions, and behavioral
associations” (p. 290). For example, people typically feel the emotion of fear when they,
or someone/something they care about, are perceived as being threatened and that the
threat is out of their control (Nabi, 2002). The behavior that accompanies this feeling is
avoidance, where the individual will tend to seek avoiding that threat (Nabi, 2002). Fear
appeals with a high level of threat have shown to be most effective in inducing behavior
change. These appeals are enhanced when the receiver of the message or appeal is
additionally given a way to alleviate this danger (Brader, 2005.) According to the
Extended Parallel Process Model, when an individual perceives a high amount of threat
and also given a way to avert the threat without much effort, the individual becomes more
motivated to control that threat (Witte, 1992). For another example, take the emotion of
pride. Pride is typically evoked when an individual’s self-worth is perceived to be
increased as a result of a personal achievement (Nabi, 2002). A behavior related with this
emotion may include publically announcing the achievement (Nabi, 2002).
Stimuli can evoke responses which induce negative or positive emotions. To
understand the response, one must also take into account the background of the recipient
of the message. Factors, such as mood, will alter the way in which the message is
received (Roseman, et al, 1986; Nabi, 2002). Additionally, an individual’s culture will
alter the way in which a message is received (Damasio, 1999). Classes of stimuli are
created giving certain meaning to objects and events (Damasio, 1999).
Emotions can affect any number of different decisions that an individual can
make. For the purpose of this paper the effects of emotion appeals in relation to political
campaigns are the focus. The following section examines the literature and research
conducted on the affect of emotional appeals in relation to political campaigns.
Emotional Appeals and Political Campaigns
Throughout history there has been debate whether emotion should or should not
play a role in politics, whether or not emotions do play a role in politics, and if emotion
does plays a role in politics, to what extent. Critics of emotional appeals in relation to
politics believe that it is manipulative to use these appeals in political ads because, in a
democratic society, emotional appeals will inhibit the message receiver’s ability to make
a rational decision about the candidate (Brader, 2006; Brader, 2005). This disdain for the
use of emotional appeals in political ads is because of the knowledge of the close-knit
relationship of emotion and cognition and the emotional charge that is often attached to
political beliefs (Roseman, et al, 1986; Brader, 2005).
Though there are some who are opposed to the use of emotional appeals in
political campaigns, it seems that regardless of the advertisements, people become
emotionally attached to political issues (Roseman, et al, 1986). For this reason, it is
sometimes difficult to tell if the emotion is the cause or the result of change in political
behavior (Brader, 2005). The use of emotional appeals, though (as opposed to the lack of
emotion) in political commercials drastically changes the way in which viewers process
and remember the messages (Lang, 1991). For example, commercials which contain both
negative and positive emotional appeals are remembered more frequently than those
commercials which use just one emotional appeal (Lang, 1991; Biocca, 1991).
Additionally, those commercials which use one emotional appeal are recalled more
readily than those which use no emotional appeal, but between negative and positive
emotional appeals, negative appeals are recalled more often (Lang, 1991; Biocca, 1991).
Though individuals hold their own opinion of emotion and politics, little research
has been done in relation to the role of emotion in political campaigns, however, in the
amount of work that has been done on this topic, the results have shown that emotion can
cause changes in how recipients respond to political messages (Brader, 2005). Through
experience, individuals learn to associate different images, sounds and words with
different emotional meanings and these are stored in our memory (Brader, 2005). When
we encounter these images, sounds or words in the future, our memory is triggered and
the emotion is again felt (Brader, 2005). Brader (2005) found that the use of enthusiasm
appeals in political advertisements increased respondents’ interest in the campaign. In
contrast, fear appeals induced anxiety, and this anxiety affected political decision making,
by getting individuals to the polls (Brader, 2005).
When choosing a politician or political party to identify oneself with, individuals
use their attitudes on a number of different subjects to make their decision (Castells,
2009). According to Castells (2009) individuals’ attitudes are influenced by their feelings
and thus they depend on those feelings to make these decisions. Feelings are the
individuals’ assessment of their emotions (Castells, 2009). It is in this way that emotion is
linked to the individual’s assessment and choice of a political candidate (Castells, 2009).
Emotion can be enhanced in political ads through the use of music and
visual cues that elicit emotional feelings (Brader, 2006; Brader, 2005). For example, the
image of the flag is used to inspire, while images of explosions are used to make the
viewer anxious (Brader, 2005). The key in using emotional cues is to elicit the desired
emotion, while at the same time making the case to “vote for me” (Brader, 2005).
The mood of the country will determine which political advertisements will be
effective and resonate with the receivers (Brader, 2005; Zullow & Segilman, 1990). For
example, when the public mood is that of distress or dissatisfaction, the public is more
likely to be persuaded to change (Brader, 2005). For instance, if the public mood is
fearful and angry, the use of fear and anger appeals will likely not work, but hope
appeals, which imply a better future, will be effective (Fin & Glaser, 2010). When the
public mood is satisfied, individuals are less likely to seek change (Brader, 2005; Marcus,
Newuman & MacKuen, 2000).
Positive Emotional Appeals
As previously stated, stimuli can evoke both positive and negative emotions.
Positive emotional appeals refer to stimuli that have positive implications for the receiver
(Brader, 2005). Often, when studying emotional appeals, the positive appeals are
overlooked (Nabi, 2002). There are several emotions which are categorized as positive
emotion appeals. Some of these include hope, enthusiasm, happiness, relief, compassion
and pride (Nabi, 2002). Each of these emotions is cued by different stimuli, and can lead
to different courses of action, if any (Nabi, 2002). For example, happiness can lead to
sharing or the use of humor; relief leads to the release of tension; and compassion can
lead to helping others (Nabi, 2002). These emotions may serve as a guide for making
decisions with little information or thought (Nabi, 2002).
Hope Appeals
As mentioned above, hope is considered a positive emotion. Hope appeals are
designed to draw out “feel-good” responses (Brader, 2006). The emotion of hope
involves looking into the future, a skill that is distinctive in the human brain (Castells,
2009). Though humans are all, uniquely, able to feel hopeful, our experiences will shape
the extent to which we feel hope (Peterson, 2000).
As Nabi (2002) points out, “very little research directly addresses hope’s
persuasive effect.” The research does, however, tell us that, typically, individuals are
most persuaded by hope appeals once they have been predisposed to feeling scared or
fearful (Damasio, 1999; Nabi, 2002). When an individual experiences fear or other
negative emotions, this arouses the desire for something better, and as mentioned in the
introduction to this paper, the emotion of hope is just this: the desire for something better.
This yearning for the problem to be solved, for a better situation leads individuals to
feeling empowered to do something to change their circumstances and make a difference
(Rusaw, 2005).
Although hope is a positive emotion, there may be negative consequences to
using hope appeals. Individuals who put a lot of energy into their hopes may end up
feeling exhausted and disappointed if those hopes are not fulfilled (Rusaw, 2005).
Further, this dissapointment “can lead to dissolving bonds of trust that people had so
tenulously built” (Rusaw, 2005, p. 144). If hope appeals are used and the recipients’
hopes are raised too high, then feelings of frustration or anger may result in an indirect
way when expectations are not met, leaving the blame on the individual whom elicited
those feelings (Damasio, 1999; Nabi, 2002). For example, upon being hired to a new job
an individual is told by his boss that he will rarely have to work past 5:30 and that he
does not have to work on weekends. The individual quit his previous job because he did
not like the long hours, and was looking forward to spending more time with his family.
After several weeks, the new employee found himself working until 8:30 regularly to
finish projects, and had been asked on three occasions by his boss to come into work on a
Saturday. Here, the individual was hopeful for a schedule that allowed him more time
with his family, but was left frustrated with his boss when those hopes were not fulfilled.
Hope Appeals and American Political Campaigns
Often times, politicians make strategic decisions about what to say, what to wear,
where to go, and so forth. Whether the candidate is optimistic or pessimistic is more of an
inherent characteristic which cannot easily be affected without the notice or skepticism of
the American electorate (Peterson, 2000). For those candidates who are optimistic and
exude this optimism naturally, there are clear benefits to maximizing and highlighting
this during their campaign.
One of the main benefits is the American electorate’s magnetism toward
optimism. As mentioned in the introduction of this paper, through the American Dream,
Americans by nature “see themselves as a ‘can do’ nation’” (Zullow & Seligman, 1990,
p. 52). The term American Exceptionalism has been coined for the idea that, in America
and for Americans, there is no limit to what is possible (Zullow & Seligman, 1990). This
view that Americans hold, and that those around the world who come to America with
dreams of a better future hold, is based on an intangible feeling called hope. This idea
that the American population holds, that ‘there is something better out there’, makes this
nation, by nature, optimistic (Zullow & Segilman, 1990). This attraction and tendency
toward optimism and hope in the mindset of the American people about their country
directly correlates with their tendency toward optimism and hope in their elected officials
(Zullow & Segilman, 1990). A more concrete reason for the tendency toward hope and
optimism is that, in troubled times, the hopeful candidate gives the electorate the feeling
that there is a solution to their problems, whereas a pessimistic candidate leaves the
electorate feeling like there is nothing better to come (Zullow & Seligman, 1990).
Candidates who do emphasize hope in their campaigns use many outlets to
convey this feeling, including personal interactions, speeches and advertisements. Hope
appeals are most effective in encouraging individuals to become involved in a campaign,
and in “reinforcing existing loyalties” (Brader, 2006; Marcus & MacKuen, 1993). In
using hope appeals in political ads, the goal is to do this, as well as gain the affection of
the message recipient.
To elicit feelings of hope in political advertisements, visuals rich in color, with
warm light and soft edges, are typically used (Brader, 2006). Typical images include that
of small towns, people working, couples, children, national monuments, light and the
American flag (Brader, 2006; Westin, 2007). Positive sounds such as applause and
laughter and uplifting music are also utilized to create the feeling of hope (Brader, 2006).
The rhetoric used to arouse of hope is also distinct. Rather than use facts or percentages,
hope appeals are based on feeling and personal experiences and interactions (Averill &
Sundararajan, 2005). Averill and Sundararajan (2005) describe the narrative of hope as
having three core elements “(a) a wish for an outcome, the occurrence of which is
uncertain; (b) coping responses undertaken to achieve the outcome, in spite of the
uncertainty; and (c) a belief system [called] faith” (p. 136). In accordance with this and
with the nature and definition of hope, words and phrases describing the future, the idea
that there is better to come and of the American Dream, and using rhetoric which
articulates the images of hope discussed above, are examples of wording that articulate
As mentioned in the previous section, hope is typically elicited after one has
experienced the emotion of fear. Little research has been conducted on what follows hope
appeals in political campaigns, but Roseman, et al (1986) states that “perhaps the only
way to combat hope is with greater hope” (p. 293). The results section of this paper is
aimed at exploring if these assertions are correct.
Economy and Political Campaigns
Emotion has been shown to have an effect on the American electorate in political
campaigns, but it is not the only factor to impact voters’ decisions. It is widely believed
by political and economic scholars that the economic standing of the nation plays a major
role in the decision-making process for American citizens in choosing a presidential
candidate (Erikson, 2009; Kramer, 1971; Meltzer & Cellrath, 1975; Bloom & Price,
1971; Kinder & Kiewiet, 1979; Nadeau & Lewis-Beck, 2001; Hibbs, 2000). Research has
shown that since World War II, the US electorate has repeatedly and consistently voted in
presidential elections in direct correlation with the economic standing of the nation at that
time (Nadeau & Lewis-Beck, 2001; Erikson, 2009). When the economy is in good
standing, the American public tends to vote to keep the incumbent presidential party in
office (Erikson, 2009; Nadeau & Lewis-Beck, 2001). Bloom and Price (1975) agree that
when the economic state of the nation is poor, the economy is a decisive matter in
presidential elections. They argue though, that when the economy is prosperous, the
economy is still an important issue, but not necessarily the deciding factor for the
American electorate. When the economy is in poor or worsening standing, the American
public tends to vote against the incumbent party (Erikson, 2009; Kramer, 1971; Nadeau
& Lewis-Beck, 2001). As the state of the economy shifts, so too does the popularity of
the incumbent party (Erikson, 2009; Kramer, 1971). The reason the economy seems to
play such a critical role in US presidential campaigns is because aspects of the economy
(wages, employment, inflation etc.) can cause direct costs or benefits to the electorate,
which are then turned into votes (Meltzer & Vellrath, 1975; Kinder & Kiewiet, 1979).
International Relations and Political Campaigns
The United States involvement in overseas conflict is a topic which has widely
been covered throughout recent history, and is often a focal topic in presidential
campaigns. Smith (1998) states “studies of both voting decisions and public opinion
conclude that foreign policy performance affects domestic political support” (p.625). The
American public has several reasons for having interest in the United States’ presence in
foreign nations. The most influential aspect of US involvement abroad for the American
electorate is the economic ramifications of that involvement (Hibbs, 2000; Smith 1998).
In times of war and in times of economic struggle, the non-incumbent party gains the
upper-hand, for at least the moment (Petrocik, 1996). For example, if the economy is
poor, the American electorate will likely not support US involvement in a war (where the
US government is spending money on another country) and give their support to the nonincumbent. Though this is true, even in poor economic times, in some cases the public
expects the United States to take at least minimal action in international crises (Smith,
1998). This research explains that support by the American public for action abroad is
reliant on factors of the degree of involvement, the international crisis at hand, and that
state of the nation economically.
This literature review outlined main themes and concepts which are referenced
throughout this paper. In summary, theory on emotion states that hope appeals are most
effective when preceded by fear appeals. It is proposed that the emotion to best follow
hope appeals is, in fact, further use of hope appeals. The economy and international
relations, which can be tightly-knit topics in predicting if the incumbent will win, are
areas that grasp the attention and interest of the American electorate. For instance, if the
economy is poor and the nation is involved in an unpopular war, or has been unsuccessful
in an international crisis, it is predicted that the non-incumbent party will win the
election. Based on these findings it is predicted that fear appeals will be used prior to the
hope campaigns used by these candidates. Additionally, it is predicted that hope appeals
will again be used after the initial hope- based campaign. Furthermore, with the
knowledge that each of these candidates represented the non-incumbent party in their
initial run for office, it is predicted that just prior to the focal election years, the economy
was poor, and, if there was an international crisis, it was not favorable in the view of the
electorate. Additionally, because in the cases of Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton, the
incumbent party was voted into office for the following term, it is predicted that the
economic and international status of nation improved during their initial terms. The
following section will describe the research conducted to analyze the political campaigns
in focus.
This section of the capstone outlines the research conducted in order to gather the
findings. This research project includes a historical analysis of the major aspects of
political concern in the election years just prior to and during the 1960, 1980, 1992, and
2008 elections, as well as the emotional appeals used during those eight elections, and the
four subsequent elections. This section further details the methodology used to conduct
this historical analysis.
Historical Analysis
The historical analysis examines studies conducted, literature written, and
campaign materials produced in regards to the campaigns immediately before, during,
and immediately after the focal presidential campaigns of 1960, 1980, 1992 and 2008.
The analysis examines the ways in which each winning candidate utilized hope appeals
throughout their campaigns during those four election years. The emotional appeals used
by the winning candidates in the election years prior to and following the focal elections
will be studied as well. The analysis of the emotional appeals used during these
campaigns is determined through a qualitative analysis of messages and speeches
emphasizing the prominent emotional appeals. An in-depth interview with an expert
involved in the 1992 Clinton campaign was conducted in order to gain additional insight
into the creation of, and reasoning behind, the use of hope appeals in the 1992 election.
Additionally, secondary research was conducted through studying opinion polls on
emotional feelings toward presidential candidates, as well as through researching
literature composed detailing the emotional appeals of these candidates during these key
elections. Research was also conducted to determine the economic climate of the country
immediately before and after the focal election years, and the status of the country in
relation to international politics (e.g., if the United States was in a war, if that war was
supported by the people, etc.). Research on the status of the country in the years prior to
and immediately following the focal campaigns is analyzed. The following section details
the results found through conducting this historical analysis.
This section discusses the findings of the research. Here, key elements of the
Kennedy ‘60, Reagan ‘80, Clinton ‘92, and Obama ‘08 campaigns are outlined. Each
section begins by describing the way the candidate elicited hope. This is followed by an
analysis of the emotional appeals used by the candidate who won the campaign in the
previous election year, and the state of the nation during that time period, including the
economic and international standing of the country. Next, the economic and international
standing of the country during the first term of the candidates in focus are discussed.
Finally, the emotional appeals used by the candidate in the presidential campaign
immediately following those years is analyzed.
Kennedy’s New Frontier
As a young, optimistic candidate, John F. Kennedy utilized hope appeals
throughout his 1960 campaign to emphasize how he would lead the country in the new
and fresh era of which America was on the verge. Kennedy portrayed his hopeful
campaign through speeches, debates and advertisements.
In Kennedy’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, he
reiterated the points that he focused on throughout his campaign. Titled “The New
Frontier,” Kennedy stated that he was “not here to curse the darkness, [but] here to light a
candle” (Kennedy, 1960). Throughout the speech, Kennedy repeated the themes of new,
different, and the future. This was done by emphasizing the new generation coming to
power, which Kennedy contrasted to his opponent, Richard Nixon’s party, which
Kennedy claimed was the party of the past. Kennedy stated that the nation was on the
“edge of a new frontier, of unknown opportunities, a frontier of unfilled hopes”
(Kennedy, 1960).
Kennedy compared himself again to his opponent, showing that he was more
hopeful and optimistic about the future of the country than Nixon in the advertisement,
“Debate 2”. In the ad, a segment of Kennedy’s second debate with Nixon is shown. In the
clip, Kennedy states1:
This is a great country, but I think it could be a greater country.
And this is a powerful country, but I think it could be a more
powerful country… I think we can do better…. If you feel that
everything that is being done now is satisfactory… that we are
achieving everything as a nation that we should achieve, that we
are achieving a better life for our citizens and greater strength, then
I agree. I think you should vote for Mr. Nixon. But if you feel that
we have to move again in the ‘60s, that the function of the
president is to set before the people the unfinished business of our
society… what we must do as a society to meet our needs in this
country and protect our security and help the cause of freedom…. I
don’t want historians ten years from now to say: These were the
years when the tide ran out from the United States. I want them to
“Debate 2,” John F. Kennedy, 1960, Citizens for Kennedy, Courtesy of:
say: These were the years when the tide came in. These were the
years when the United States started to move again.
In this passage, the optimism of Kennedy is again exemplified.
Kennedy uses future thinking, and the elements of the American Dream, of
wanting better for the future of America, to evoke a feeling of hope. This
optimistic rhetoric was common of Kennedy throughout his campaign.
Eisenhower’s Fear
In the 1956 presidential campaign between Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai
Stevenson which directly preceded Kennedy’s 1960 campaign, Eisenhower was the
victor. In that 1956 campaign, Eisenhower utilized fear appeals in his campaign
messages. The Eisenhower campaign messages discussed peace, but emphasized the
threat of war to ignite fears in his audiences.
For example, in the campaign advertisement “Football/ Peace2,” the ad begins
with a young man watching a football game through binoculars. The next scene shows a
flashback of the young man using binoculars in the Korean War. The commentator states:
Four years ago, many of our young men were on Heartbreak Ridge
in Korea. And that was no game: a vicious, grinding war that went
on and on, as if forever. Of course, today it’s all over and the
young men are trying to forget…. All over the country, young men
and their parents are asking: Can we gamble when the stakes are so
“Football/ Peace,” Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956, Citizens for Eisenhower Courtesy of:
high? .... Are you willing to bet everything you love and hold dear
that Stevenson can also keep us out of war? Are you that sure? ….
Ask yourself: is this the time to change, with war simmering all
around the world? ... Because [President Eisenhower] knows
firsthand the terror and misery of war.
The images of the advertisement show scenes of war with a serious man narrating the
commercial. The strategic use of words and phrases such as “vicious,” “grinding,” “can
we gamble when the stakes are so high,” and “war simmering around the world” are
seemingly used to elicit fear in the viewers of this advertisement. Through encouraging
the viewers to second guess their opinion of Stevenson’s ability to keep the nation out of
war, the Eisenhower thus scares the electorate into supporting him.
Another Eisenhower advertisement designed to elicit fear in the minds of viewers
is “Taxi Driver and Dog”3. This ad depicts a man walking his dog at night. The man,
viewers learn, is a taxi driver, and he stops in front of the White House to talk about his
“neighbor,” President Eisenhower. The man with the dog asks “What do you suppose
he’s thinking about over there?” and answers with this:
Maybe [he’s thinking about] things thousands of miles away from
here, anywhere in the world, wherever some crisis is starting to
threaten everybody’s future. Egypt, Formosa, East Berlin- there’s a
dozen places where real trouble can break out. And that’s why we
all depend on Ike so much. He can stand up to Khruschev and
“Taxi Driver and Dog,” Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956 Citizens for Eisenhower Courtesy of:
those fellows. He’s a big man who is used to handling big
Here, images of crises and militaries around the world appear on the screen. The
words of this commercial indicate that that Eisenhower can, as the man with the dog says,
“stand up” to these threats, implying that the alternative, Stevenson, would not be able to,
and thus would leave America in a vulnerable position. Additionally, rather than taking
an optimistic stance about the future of the nation, the narrator takes a pessimistic stance,
emphasizing all of the crises which could occur around the world. As Kennedy
continually emphasized hope in the future of the nation, four years prior, in 1956,
Eisenhower continually emphasized the potential calamities America was susceptible to
in that time.
Economy of the Eisenhower- Kennedy Eras
In 1958, towards the end of Eisenhower’s final term as President, the United
States was facing their third economic recession since World War II (Sundquist, 1970).
“Between October 1957- February 1958 unemployment more than doubled; in February
it exceeded five million for the first time since the 1930’s 7.7 percent of the labor force”
(Sundquist, 1970, p. 21). This economic downturn can be noted below by arrow “A” in
Figure 1.
By Eisenhower’s final year as president, the unemployment numbers had reached
a postwar high (Davis, 1999). The nation’s purchasing power was in continuous decline
and America appeared to be in retreat (Davis, 1999). This economic downturn in
Eisenhower’s final year in office is depicted by arrow “B” in Figure 1. The economic
hardships of the final years of the Eisenhower administration became a focal point for the
1960 election between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy (Sundquist, 1970.)
In President Kennedy’s first State of the Union Address, he summarized the state
of the economy as being “in the wake of seven months of recession, three and one half
years of slack, [and] seven years of diminished economic growth” (Kennedy, 1961).
Moving forward from this point, Kennedy worked to stimulate growth through
purposefully unbalancing the budget by reducing taxes (Sundquist, 1970). The tax cuts
made during his term in office helped to spark the economic boom of the 1960s (Davis,
1999). The beginning of this economic boom is noted by arrow “C” in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Economy and Major Events 1955- 1965
is re-elected
in Hungary
and Suez
is elected
Bay of
is elected
Kennedy is
Source: Trading Economics.com; Bureau of Economic Analysis
International Turmoil- The Cold War Years
Throughout the eight years during which Eisenhower was president, the United
States was in the midst of the Cold War and international tensions to keep peace were
high. The military interventions in Suez and in Hungary in 1956 elevated this feeling of
uncertainty for the possibility of peace in the American people (Wright, 1957). In 1956,
the election year leading up to Eisenhower’s final term, nearly 66 percent of Americans
believed that a hydrogen bomb would be used against America if a war broke out (May,
In 1960, when Kennedy was running for President, 67 percent of the country had
at least some level of worry that the United States would be involved in a war (Index to
the ANES Guide). This is up over 10 percentage points from the election years preceding
and following the ’60 election cycle (Index to the ANES Guide). In the year Kennedy
was sworn into office, the Cold War was the focal point of international affairs, and the
West seemed to be losing the battle (Campaign of 1960; Vandenbrouke, 1984). As
Communist revolts continued to develop around the world, as close to the US borders as
Cuba, the American people sought their President to act (Vandenbrouke, 1984).
Only three months after his inauguration, Kennedy led the invasion of the Bay of
Pigs, which was ultimately unsuccessful (Vandenbrouke, 1984). In the same year, the
Soviet’s gained another advantage through the construction of the Berlin Wall and the
creation of the Eastern Bloc. In 1962, Cold War tensions were at their peek during the
thirteen days of the Cuban missile crisis (Allison, 1969). During this time “there was a
higher probability that more human lives would end suddenly than ever before in history”
with “100 million Americans’, over 100 million Russians,’ and millions of Europeans’”
lives at risk (Allison, 1969). The time between 1962 and 1963 marked a change in the
tensions of the Cold War and US relations with The USSR through the signing of the
partial test ban treaty (Mueller, 1979).
Yet, tension around the world was still high. Since 1955, the US had a presence in
Vietnam, but after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Johnson “authorized
military excursions” in Saigon (Dwyer, 2002). As Dwyer (2002) states “these directives,
along with others gradually escalated the United States involvement in the Vietnam
conflict” (Dwyer, 2002, p. 412). In the election year of 1964, pressures around the world
were still high, and for many Americans, there was uncertainty about the safety of their
Johnson’s Campaign
In November of 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. At this time, Vice
President Lyndon Johnson took office. The following year in 1964, at what would have
been the end of Kennedy’s first term, Johnson ran against and beat Barry Goldwater, and
won the presidency.
Many of Johnson’s campaign advertisements in the 1964 election elicited
emotions of fear through displaying or discussing the consequences of being reckless
with powerful weapons and implying that Goldwater could act in this reckless manner.
The ad, “Merely Another Weapon” only used images of explosions with the narrator
nothing that “Barry Goldwater said of the nuclear bomb, ‘merely another weapon.4’”
“Merely Another Weapon,” Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964, DDB: Aaron Erlich, Stan Lee, Sid Myers, Tony Schwartz,
Courtesy of: www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1964/merely-another-weapon
Johnson’s advertisement “Ice Cream” depicts a young, innocent-looking girl eating an ice
cream while the narrator speaks about the dangers of atomic bombs, and Goldwater’s
stance against a treaty to get rid of the weapons5.
Possibly one of the most famous campaign advertisements was released by the
Johnson campaign, and was known as Daisy girl (Ridout & Smith, 2008). The
advertisement, actually called “Peace Little Girl,” shows a young girl in a field plucking
the petals off of a daisy and counting as she does it6. A man’s voice is then heard
counting down from 10, with alarms in the background. The girl stops counting and the
image is zoomed into the girl’s eye, then the image goes black, followed by a large
explosion. Johnson is heard saying, “These are the stakes: To make a world in which all
of God’s children can live, or to go into the darkness. We must either love each other, or
we must die.” At the end of this, and each of the other advertisements, the narrator
cautions, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to
stay home.” The images of explosions, the threat of darkness and death and the sounds of
alarms ringing all added to heightening the anxiety of the viewers watching the
advertisement, and the thought that these themes- explosions, darkness, and death- were
all too possible.
It is shown through this section that Kennedy’s hope campaign was preceded by
Eisenhower’s campaign which highlighted fear appeals, as well as followed by Johnson’s
campaign which, too, highlighted fear appeals. The nation immediately before and during
“Ice Cream,” Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964, DDB: Aaron Erlich, Stan Lee, Sid Myers, Tony Schwartz, Courtesy of:
“Peace Little Girl (Daisy) Lyndon B. Johnson, September 7, 1964, DDB: Aaron Erlich, Stan Lee, Sid Myers, Tony
Schwartz, Courtesy of: www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1964/peace-little-girl-daisy
Kennedy’s run for office faced an economic recession accompanied with high
unemployment. After Kennedy’s inauguration, the economy began to progress, and the
country experienced to boom of the ‘60s. The world was on edge in the years surround
Kennedy’s term in office, with the Cold War brewing and the threat of Communism
creeping closer to the American borders.
Reagan’s The Time is Now
In the 1980 campaign cycle, Ronald Reagan ran against incumbent President
Jimmy Carter. In that year, 63 percent of the population stated that Carter made them feel
angry (Index to the ANES Guide). The people were upset with their president, but
Reagan gave them something to be optimistic about (Campagna, 1994). Campagna
(1994) states that in the 1980 election, “the public wanted hope, the restoration of pride
of country, and it wanted to dream” (p. 30). Reagan was able address these individuals in
a way that was sincere, optimistic and persuasive in his hopes to put America back on top
in the international and economic realms (Campagna, 1994; Roseman, et al, 1986).
From the very beginning of Reagan’s campaign, he made the concept of hope a
central theme. In the speech that Reagan gave when announcing his candidacy, he said
the following (Reagan, 1979):
To me our country is a living, breathing presence, unimpressed by
what others say is impossible…and always impatient to provide a
better life for its people….The difference between an American
and any other kind of person is that an American lives in
anticipation of the future because he knows it will be a great
place….nothing is impossible, and that man is capable of
improving his circumstances beyond what we are told is
fact….There remains the greatness of our people, our capacity for
dreaming up fantastic deeds and bringing them off to the surprise
of an unbelieving world.
In his speech at the Republican National Convention, he reiterated his focus on
the future and repeated the idea of keeping America on top in the international realm
(Reagan, 1980). At the end of this speech Reagan says, “for those who have abandoned
hope, we’ll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make
America great again!”
The 1980 campaign advertisement, “Liberty Park/ Hope Campaign 80” depicts
Reagan giving a speech on Independence Day7. The clip shows Reagan with flags waving
throughout the audience and the Statue of Liberty to his left. In this ad, Reagan is shown
saying the following:
Beside that torch that many times before in our nation’s history has
cast a golden light in times of gloom, I pledge to you: I’ll bring
new hope to America. This country needs a new administration
with a renewed dedication to the dream of America, an
administration that will give that dream new life, and make
America great again. I want, more than anything I have ever
“Liberty Park/ Hope Campaign 80,” Ronald Reagan, September 9, 1980, Courtesy of:
wanted, to have an administration that will, through its actions at
home and in the international arena, let millions of people know
that Miss Liberty still lifts her lamp beside the golden door.
In the “Reagan’s Record” advertisements, the appeals in the beginning are that of
fear, but as the commercial progresses, they turn to hope8. The first 25 seconds of the
advertisement shows individuals from around the world with bandages on and in dire
conditions, and sirens sounding in the background, followed by an image of Jimmy
Carter, as the narrator is saying “very slowly, a step at a time, the hope for world peace
erodes….Jimmy Carter still doesn’t know that it takes strong leadership to keep the
peace. Weak leadership will lose it.”
This fear-based segment of the advertisement is followed by a clip from the
Republican National Convention, where Reagan is giving a speech to a large crowd of
people and with the words “together…a new beginning” bannered in front of him. This is
followed by images of Reagan giving other speeches, and walking through cheering
crowds, with trumpeted music playing in the background. Reagan is heard saying the
Whatever else history may say about my candidacy, I hope it will
be recorded that I appealed to our best hopes, not our worst fears;
to our confidence, rather than our doubts; to the facts, not to
fantasies. And these three- hope, confidence, and facts- are at the
heart of my vision of peace.
“Peace (Republican),” Ronald Reagan, 1980, Courtesy of: www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1980/peacerepublican
The advertisement ends with an image of a setting sun over the statue of liberty.
In this campaign, Reagan continually appealed to hope, both through explicitly
stating that he wanted to appeal to the hopes of Americans, but also through his
discussion of the American Dream, of wanting a better, more prosperous and peaceful
future. The Statue of Liberty is shown and referenced throughout his advertisements, a
symbol of what many immigrants coming to America saw first as they traveled closer to
this country’s shores, and closer to the hopes of a new beginning and the American
Dream. Reagan successfully wove the images of America and the discussion of the
American Dream into his campaign to appeal to the hopes of Americans.
Carter’s Mixed Emotions
President Carter’s use of emotional appeals wavered. In 1976, Jimmy Carter ran
against President Gerald Ford to win the Presidency. In this presidential campaign,
Carter, a relatively unknown governor of Georgia, introduced himself to the country, as
many presidential candidates do, through his “Bio” advertisement9. This advertisement
uses uplifting and light acoustic folk music throughout, as well as images that evoke
hope, enthusiasm and country pride, such as images of the Statue of Liberty, Mount
Rushmore, the flag, images of the US both urban and rural, images of crowds cheering
for Carter and Carter graciously smiling and shaking hands. The narrator states in this
election year, a “new beginning is underway, led by a man whose roots are founded in the
American tradition.” Carter and his mother are each shown describing the candidate’s
“Bio,” Jimmy Cater, 1976, Democratic Presidential Campaign Committee, Inc- Gerald Rafshoon, Courtesy of:
modest upbringing and generations of heritage in Georgia. Later, Carter is shown giving
a speech, saying:
I have a vision of America, a vision that has grown and ripened as
I’ve traveled and talked and listened and learned and gotten to
know the people of this country. I see an America poised, not only
at the beginning of a new century, but at the brink of a long, new
era of more effective, and efficient, and sensitive and competent
government. I see an America that has turned away from scandals
and corruption. I see an American President who governs with
vigor and with vision, and… who feels your pain and who shares
your dreams. I see an America on the move again….This is my
vision of America. I hope you share it, and I hope you will help me
fight for it.
In addition to showing the images that evoke hope, Carter speaks of
the future and his personal experience of the American Dream, notable hope
evoking topics.
Though this ad seems hopeful, others of Carter’s ads seemed more
somber. For instance, Carter’s “Reality10” advertisement, Carter is depicted
as a talking head, close-up in front of a dark background. He speaks
throughout in monotone, describing the state of the nation, saying:
“Reality,” Jimmy Carter, 1976, Democratic Presidential Committee, Inc- Tony Schwartz, Courtesy of:
…Eight million people, every one of them out of work. Every trip
to the supermarket- a shock. Cities collapsing, suburbs scared,
departments- cut. Fire departments- cut. Daycare centers- shut.
Welfare skyrocketing, energy in foreign hands. That’s our reality...
Several of Carters’ subsequent advertisements contained similar morose, monotone
Carter “presented himself as the candidate of hope and new beginnings, but he
floated to the surface on a tide of despair” (Hahn, 1984, p. 118). As Hahn (1984) states,
“Carter’s Dream rhetoric seemed less hopeful…perhaps because he introduced it
negatively: [Carter state] ‘the bold and brilliant dream which excited the founders of our
nation still awaits consummation. I have no new dream to set forth today, but rather urge
a fresh faith in the old dream’” (p. 269).
Like Carter’s use of emotional appeals, his popularity in terms of the economic
standing of the nation fluctuated. Several economists have noted that there seems to be
two distinct eras in the Carter administration in reference to the economy (Campagna,
1994; 1995; Biven, 2002). The first half of Carter’s term in office seemed to keep the
status quo, as shown in Figure 2 by arrow ‘A’, while sometime between 1977 and 1978
there was a dramatic downturn in the economy, as shown by arrow ‘B’ in Figure 2.
Between 1977 and 1978, inflation rose dramatically, from 6.5 percent, (a minor increase
from the previous presidency) to 7.7 percent (Biven, 2002). In the second quarter of 1980
(which happened to be Carter’s final year in office), the country slipped into an economic
recession and faced the most severe “one-quarter drop in national output record,” as
arrow ‘C’ in Figure 2 indicates (Biven, 2002, p. 3).
The economic turmoil of the latter years of the Carter administration was the
likely major basis for Reagan’s victory in the 1980 election (Biven, 2002). Biven (2002)
states, “it was not Iran but inflation and unemployment that were the uppermost concerns
in the minds of voters” (p. 3). When Reagan was running for president in 1980, 83
percent of the population believed that under the Carter administration, their economic
condition had worsened since the previous year (Index to the ANES Guide). In 1984 after
Reagan’s first term, when asked the same question more people (43%) believed that their
economic condition had improved since the previous year (Index to the ANES Guide).
Reagan, a president whose specialty was not economics, was adamant on his
fiscal policy: he believed in cutting taxes, keeping government spending and involvement
to a minimum, and increasing spending for national defense (Campagna, 1994). By the
end of Reagan’s Presidency, the Reagan Administration had projected 28 straight
quarters of growth in the economy (Davis, 1999).
Figure 2. Economy and Major Events 1975-1985
Carter is
Iran hostage
Reagan is
Soviet Union
Reagan is
US invasion
Of Grenada
Source: TradingEconomics.com; Bureau of Economic Analysis
International Turmoil- Pressure in the Middle East
Carter came to office in the aftermath of the unpopular Vietnam War, which
ended in 1975. At this time, the American people were wary of involvement
internationally, and felt uneasiness about their county’s role in Vietnam and status as a
superpower (Yankelovich & Kaagan, 1980). As the years progressed after the election of
Carter, the American people became concerned with their stance as a leading worldpower, and wanted the country to regain their dominance in foreign affairs (Yankelovich
& Kaagan, 1980). Carter’s popularity hit peeks and valleys partially due to his handling
of crises around the world and Americans’ wavering stance on the role of America in
international relations at the time (Marcus, et al, 2000).
On November 4, 1979 52 Americans were held hostage in Iran (Yankelovich &
Kaagan, 1980). During this time, Carter’s ratings were still fairly high (Marcus, et al,
2000). When it was clear that America’s efforts to save the hostages had failed, Carter’s
popularity dropped dramatically (Campagna, 1994; Marcus, et al, 2000). Americans were
embarrassed and angered with their government for not being able to protect the
American embassy in Tehran, and for not being able to free the hostages (Yankelovich &
Kaagan, 1980). Added to this threat in the Middle East was the Soviet’s invasion of
Afghanistan in 1979. Though Carter claimed this act as the “greatest single threat to
world peace since World War II” which rallied Americans, no military action was able to
be made, further frustrating the American electorate (Yankelovich & Kaagan, 1980). In
the summer of 1980, just months before the election, 53 percent of Americans believed
that the US was behind the Soviet Union in terms of military strength (Yankelovich &
Kaagan, 1980).
In an effort to restore America as a military power, Reagan increased efforts in
Afghanistan (Schweizer, 2002). Additionally, Reagan gained a victory in Grenada and
with the missile deployment in Europe, giving America back the upper hand in the Cold
War (Schweizer, 2002). As Schweizer (2002) points out, when the 1984 election began,
Reagan, could look over his years in office and pinpoint his international
accomplishments as President.
Reagan’s Re-Election Campaign- It’s Morning in America
In 1984, when Reagan was running for his second term, 60 percent of the
population stated that Reagan made them feel hopeful, whereas only 48 percent made that
claim in his 1980 run for office (Index to the ANES Guide). Reagan continued with his
message of hope through his second campaign for the presidency. In his State of the
Union speech in 1984, Reagan stated “hope is reborn for couples dreaming of owning
homes and for risk takers with vision to create tomorrow’s opportunities” (Reagan,
1984). Reagan also stated that “it is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to
limit ourselves to small dreams…let us renew….our faith and our hope (Reagan, 1984).
Just days after this State of the Union address, Reagan announced his bid for reelection, acknowledging that the nation was getting better, but also made the point that
there was more to be done (Reagan, 1984). Later in the campaign, at the Republican
National Convention, Reagan articulated the differences between himself and his
opponent, Walter Mondale, stating that the choice is “between two different visions of
the future, two fundamentally different ways of governing—[Mondale’s] government of
pessimism, fear and limits, or ours of hope, confidence, and growth” (Reagan, 1984).
Reagan continues by referencing Mondale and the Democrats as the party of the past,
while his is of the future (Reagan, 1984). Reagan finishes the speech by talking about the
Statue of Liberty and the torch which she holds, saying (Reagan, 1984):
The glistening hope of that lamp is still ours. Every promise, every
opportunity is still golden in this land. And through that golden
door our children can walk into tomorrow with the knowledge that
no one can be denied the promise that is America…in this
springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal; America’s is.
Again, as noted in Reagan’s 1980 campaign, he emphasized the imagery of light and the
statue of liberty and spoke of the future and the American Dream.
For this campaign, the Reagan team hired a group of well-established advertisers
to create the campaign commercials. Known as the “Tuesday Team,” the group
developed a number of campaign ads utilizing images from across America to inspire
optimism from its viewers (Reagan v. Mondale; Barry, 1997). Throughout these
campaign ads, the team highlighted the improvement of the nation’s economy in terms of
interest rates, inflation and employment, how the nation is better off than it was four
years prior11. They emphasized how the future will be brighter in the years to come
because of the work that Reagan did in his first term. The ads “Train,” “Prouder,
Stronger, Better,” “Inflation,” “Statue of Liberty” and “Peace” were all crafted by the
Tuesday Team. These advertisements, collectively known as the “Morning in America”
ads, show people working or going to work, children playing, sky lines of US cities and
fields, young couples, flags, and the statue of liberty. Each ad plays melodic music. Each
ad ends with the phrase “President Reagan: Leadership That’s Working.” They
emphasized morning, as Westin (2007) describes as “symbolizing that America under
Reagan’s leadership was experiencing a new day” (p. 76).
As is described in this section, Ronald Reagan’s initial hope campaign followed a
campaign mixed with hope and despair led by Jimmy Carter. As Yankelovich and
Kaagan (1980) state “concerns over loss of control not only had their impact on matters
““Train,” “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” “Inflation,” “Statue of Liberty” and “Peace,” Ronald Reagan, 1984, The
Tuesday Team, Courtesy of: http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/
of foreign policy, but were pervasive in the daily lives of Americans. Each year more
Americans [were] growing worried about their inability to save for the future” (p. 701).
The economy and foreign affairs improved through Reagan’s first term in office. Reagan
utilized hope appeals once again reverting to themes used in his initial 1980 campaign,
and ultimately won re-election.
Clinton- The Man from Hope
Bill Clinton entered the 1992 Presidential campaign as an unknown Governor,
running against the incumbent President George H. W. Bush. Clinton began his campaign
in 1991 with a speech given in his home state of Arkansas. In this speech, Clinton
repeatedly touched on concepts of hope, stating that he wishes to work for a “larger
cause: Preserving the American Dream…Restoring the hopes of the forgotten middle
class…Reclaiming the future for our children” (Clinton, 1991). Clinton goes on to say
that he “refuses to be part of a generation that celebrates the death of Communism abroad
with the loss of the American Dream at home” (Clinton, 1991). Clinton was able to win
his way through the primaries using hope as his theme.
After the primaries, the Clinton campaign conducted a number of focus groups
and released a number of surveys (Grunwald, 2011). Through the results of this research,
Clinton’s campaign advisors learned that in general, people did not know much about the
young governor, other than the fact that he was winning (Grunwald, 2011). Many of
these individuals had created a story about Clinton, assuming that he was rich because he
was young, and that his father must have paid for his way to get to such a high rank
(Grunwald, 2011). When given simple facts about Clinton’s past and family, those in the
focus group were “stunned, in a good way” (Grunwald, 2011). At the time, the Clinton
campaign had run out of money, and had to wait for the National Convention (Grunwald,
2011). The Clinton team chose to create a short, biographical film for the Convention so
that the country could learn about where Bill Clinton truly came from.
The minute-long film, “Journey,” otherwise known as “The Man from Hope,”
begins with a black and white scene of a small town, and a building with a sign reading
“HOPE.” Clinton, narrating, says the following:
I was born in a little town called Hope, Arkansas, three months
after my father died. I remember that old two-story house where I
lived with my grandparents. They had very limited incomes. It was
in 1963 that I went to Washington and met President Kennedy at
the Boy’s Nation program. And I remember just, uh, thinking what
an incredible country this was, that somebody like me, you know,
who had no money or anything, would be given the opportunity to
meet the president. That’s when I decided I could really do public
service because I cared so much about people. I worked my way
through law school with part time jobs, anything I could find. After
I graduated I really didn’t care about making a lot of money. I just
wanted to go home and see if I could make a difference. We’ve
worked hard in education and health care to create jobs and we’ve
made real progress. Now it’s exhilarating to me to think that as
president I could help change all our people’s lives for the better
and bring hope back to the American dream.
Throughout the clip, images of Clinton as a boy and of a young Clinton shaking
Kennedy’s hand are shown. Images of Clinton working with children and members of the
community are shown. The music throughout is light and uplifting. Westin (2007) notes
that the “sole purpose [of this ad] was to begin creating a set of positive associations to
him and narrative about the Man from Hope- framed, from start to finish, in terms of
hope and the American dream” (p. 5). Clinton effectively showed that he was not only a
man from Hope, but a man of hope and a man who was living proof of the American
Dream and what all Americans are capable of (Westin, 2009). Going into the Convention,
Clinton was in third place in the polls after Bush and Perot. After the convention, and
with the help of this film, he was first (Grunwald, 2011).
Throughout Clinton’s ’92 campaign, Clinton used fear appeals 5 percent of the
time (Feldman, Dale & Perotti, 2002). Many of the other 95 percent of his advertisements
used hope. The “We Can Do It” advertisement begins with a clip of Clinton giving a
speech saying “I want you to believe that we can make America work again”12. The rest
of the ad shows crowds of people cheering and waving flags in support of Clinton. The
background music is fast-paced and uplifting. The narrator says:
“He knows we can do it…it’s time to unite this country for
change…Together we can get this country moving again. It won’t
“We Can Do It,” Bill Clinton, 1992, Clinton- Gore Creative Team, Courtesy of:
be easy, but let’s get to work. Clinton/ Gore. For people, for a
Here, the advertisement essentially states that Clinton has hope for this country, and he
wants you, the voter, to have hope in this country as well. It will take time, but if you
vote for Clinton/ Gore, together we can make the American Dream a reality.
Bush’s Fear
In the Presidential election year prior to Clinton’s, in the 1988 campaign, George
H. W. Bush ran against and defeated Governor Michael Dukakis. As Feldman, Dale and
Perotti (2002) point out, George H. W. Bush won the 1988 election through eliciting fear
about the future of the country. In 30 percent of his messages, Bush used fear appeals
(Feldman, et al, 2002).
An example of a Bush advertisement used to elicit fear may be noted in the
“Harbor” advertisement13. The ad begins with a view from the water of a foggy harbor,
followed by images throughout of dilapidated docks, garbage floating in the water, a sign
reading “DANGER RADIATION HAZARD NO SWIMMING,” and dead fish. The
music is eerie with sounds of water lapping. A serious sounding man narrates the
advertisement, explaining that this is Boston Harbor, noting that while running for
Massachusetts Governor, Dukakis acknowledged the ill-kept harbor, but also states that
as Governor, Dukakis failed to do anything about the condition of the harbor. The
narrator says “…Now Boston Harbor is the dirtiest harbor in America. It cost residents
“Harbor,” George Bush, September 13, 1988, Dennis Frankenberry, Courtesy of:
six billion dollars to clean. And Michael Dukakis promises to do for America what he’s
done for Massachusetts.”
Utilizing the same tag line, the Bush campaign released another advertisement
discussing Dukakis’ voting record on crime14. The ad, set in black and white, shows a
prison with a revolving door and lines of prisoners going in the revolving door and
immediately coming back out of the revolving door. The narrator explains:
As Governor Michael Dukakis vetoed mandatory sentences for
drug dealers he voted the death penalty. His revolving door prison
policy gave weekend furloughs to first-degree murderers not
eligible for parole. While out, many committed other crimes like
kidnapping and rape, and many are still at large. Now Michael
Dukakis says he wants to do for America what he’s done for
Massachusetts. America can’t afford that risk.
One of the notably most impactful ads of the 1988 election was entitled “Tank
Ride”15. Though this ad was laced with “erroneous or misleading” facts, the ad was
impactful and added to “the notion that the Democratic candidate cannot be trusted as
commander in chief” (Tank Ride, 1988). The male narrator of the advertisement lists a
number of defense systems that Dukakis supposedly opposed. Throughout the
commercial the screen shows a military tank driving around a grassy field with the list of
defense systems the narrator was saying written and scrolling up the screen. The final
“Revolving Door,” George H. W. Bush, October 3, 1988, Dennis Frankenberry and Roger Ailes, Courtesy of:
“Tank Ride”, George H. W. Bush, October 17, 1988 Dennis Frankenberry, Courtesy of:
shot of the commercial shows that Dukakis is driving the tank, wearing an oversized
helmet, making him look very childish. As this clip is being shown, the narrator says
“now [Dukakis] wants to be our commander in chief. America can’t afford that risk.”
It’s the Economy, Stupid!
George H. W. Bush “presided over the worst economy overall than any postwar
president” (Dollan, 2008, p. 260). Between the beginning of 1991 and the beginning of
1992, Bush’s approval ratings plummeted from a record high of 91 percent to a mere 39
percent (Dollan, 2008). This drop in ratings can be credited to the poor state of the
economy beginning in 1990 and continuing through 1992 due to a burst in the real-estate
bubble from the late 1980s, as shown by the arrows marked ‘A’ in Figure 3 (Dollan,
2008; Stiglitz, 2003). Bush’s loss to President Clinton in 1992 is viewed as a response to
the state of the economy during his term as president (Dollan, 2008).
In the beginning of George H. W. Bush’s term in office in 1988, the nation was
split 20 to 23 percent on whether the government’s economic policies made the economy
better or worse (Index to the ANES Guide). By the 1992 election, the nation was no
longer split (Index to the ANES Guide). Only 4 percent of the population believed that
the economic policies made under Bush senior’s administration made the state of the
nation better, while 44 percent believed they made the economic standings worse (Index
to the ANES Guide). Further, in 1992, 72 percent of citizens believed that the condition
of the economy since the previous year had gotten worse (Index to the ANES Guide).
With the knowledge of the public’s focus on the economy, Clinton made this a
focal point of his campaign. Clinton used James Carville’s phrase, “it’s the economy,
stupid” to emphasize its central role in the campaign (Gavin & Sanders, 1997). In
Clinton’s first term, he worked to fix the economy through reducing the federal budge
deficit causing interest rates to fall and growth to occur (Stiglitz, 2003).
During the early-mid nineties several pieces also fell into place to cause the
economic boom which occurred, such as the investments made in prior decades in
technology began to pay off and long-term productivity increases began to show, as noted
by the arrows marked ‘B’ in Figure 3 (Stiglitz, 2003). Of particular notability is the
reduced cost of the computer which led to increased investment in the technology in the
1990s (Tevlin & Whelan, 2003). These element strengthened demand in America,
causing an increase in supply development, leading to an increase of jobs (Tevlin &
Whelan, 2003).
Figure 3. Economy and Major Events 1987- 1997
Bush Sr. is
End of
the Cold
Clinton is
of Haiti
Clinton is
Source: TradingEconomics.com; Bureau of Economic Analysis
International Crises in a Post-Cold War Era
Two important international events took place during President Bush’s term in
office: the Persian Gulf War and the end of the Cold War. During the time of the Gulf
War, Americans knew very little about the crisis (Kellner, 1992). Here, a crisis took place
in the Middle East which seemed to threaten the economy of the region, an interest for
the United States due to the effect it would have on oil costs. During this time, approval
rates for Bush were reported at up to 75 percent (Kellner, 1992).
During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were each viewed
as superpowers. 1991 marked the end of the Cold War and a major turning point in
international relations. With the fall of the Soviet Union at this time, the United States
emerged as the sole superpower, though this reality was not evident immediately by
most, including President Bush (Zakaria, 2008).
This point in history marked the beginning of a steep decline in war and organized
violence around the world (Zakaria, 2008). Still, in 1992, as at the end of the 80s, more
than half of the nation, 55 percent, believed that there was at least some likelihood of the
US being involved in a war (Index to the ANES Guide). The only major military pressure
Clinton used in his first term was done so in Haiti, where he called for a restoration of
democracy (Zakaria, 2008).
Clinton’s Run for Re-election
When Clinton was running for his second term, 58 percent of those surveyed
reported that he had made them feel hopeful (Index to the ANES Guide). In his speech at
the National Convention in ‘96, Clinton reminded Americans of the hope that he inspired
in his previous campaign (Clinton, 1996). He reminded them of how, in his previous
campaign, he worked to “keep the American dream alive for all who were willing to
work for it” (Clinton, 1996). He continued by talking about how since his campaign, the
nation has begun to rebuild itself, and that through visiting towns and cities across the
country, he could tell that there was a renewed hope in the American people (Clinton,
1996). He weaves in hopeful imagery with his language, referencing crowds of people
cheering his name and waving the American flag, the Statue of Liberty and her flame
which “will always, always burn brighter than the fires that burn our churches, our
synagogues, our mosques,” and the choice of a hypothetical bridge leading to still better
days, or one leading to a place where the best was behind them (Clinton, 1996). He
finishes the speech by making yet another reference to his ’92 campaign, stating “my
fellow Americans, after these four good, hard years, I still believe in a place called Hope,
a place called America” (Clinton, 1996).
Many of his campaign ads reflected the same hopeful optimism. Clinton
emphasized the record of his first term, citing an increase in jobs and balancing the
budget and used images of children, people at work, families and the flag16. In his “Next
Century” ad, he states that the nation is “safer, more secure, more prosperous”17. Clinton
adds though that this is not the end for the country, and that through working together
“this country’s future will be even brighter than its brilliant past.”
“Next Century,” “Accomplishment,” “Desperate,”Bill Clinton, 1996, The November 5 Group, Courtesy of:
“Next Century,” Bill Clinton, 1996, The November 5 Group, Courtesy of:
This section outlined Bill Clinton’s campaign of hope in 1992, the campaign of
fear which Bush used in the election cycle prior, and Clinton’s return to hope in his
subsequent campaign. The economy played a major role in the switching of power from
Bush to Clinton, and of Clinton’s retention of power in his run for a second term. Though
the Cold War had ended, the aftermath left issues around the world, but none seemed to
be as influential as those domestically and in their wallets.
Obama’s Hope
Prior to Barack Obama’s run for Presidency in 2008, he began to develop an
image where he personified hope. In 1995, on the threshold of his political career, Obama
published his first book, Dreams from My Father. The book detailed the autobiographical
journey through life as a black American, his experiences with race relations, and his
family’s quest for the American Dream (Obama, 1995). In 2004, Obama was introduced
to the national arena as the electrifying and hope-inspiring Keynote speaker to the
Democratic National Convention (Rowland & Jones, 2007). His second book, The
Audacity of Hope, came in 2006 (Obama, 2006). Again, Obama detailed his belief in the
American Dream, and his vision for the roles of the American government and the
American people in achieving that dream (Obama, 2006).
As Troy (2010) states, Obama “became the message, embodying Americans’
dreams” (p. 14). The Obama campaign took the image that already surrounded its
candidate and branded the entire campaign around the notion of hope. On the
“Organizing for America” website, the Democratic National Committee’s campaign site
for Barack Obama, for instance, there is a note that reads “Powered by Hope and
supporters like you.” The now iconic image of Obama in red, white and blue, with the
word “HOPE” written across, as seen below, was made into posters, shirts, coffee mugs,
stickers- virtually anything you could put an image on, this image was there (Arnon,
2008). In the Obama campaign, “Hope” was everywhere.
Courtesy of The Huffington Post
When Obama won the primary in New Hampshire, he gave a speech to the people
of that state (Obama, 2008). With the crowds chanting “we want change,” Obama (2008)
You can…lead this nation out of a long political darkness….We
have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only
grow louder…we’ve been warned against offering the people of this
nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has
never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down
impossible odds; when we’ve been told that we’re not ready, or that
we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have
responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.
Yes we can. It was a creed written into the founding documents that
declared the destiny of a nation….that the hopes of the little girl who
goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of
the boy who learns on the streets of LA…we will remember
that…we are one nation and together, we will begin the next great
chapter in America’s story… Yes we can.
In an advertisement entitled “Something,” crowds of people waving American
flags and cheering for Obama are shown18. The second half of the advertisement shows a
clip of Obama giving a speech saying “we can choose hope over fear and unity over
division; the promise of change over the power of the status quo.” This advertisement
utilized images which evoke hope, such as the flag and cheering crowds, reiterated with
the words he says which articulate the feelings of hope.
The Obama campaign also released a 30 minute special campaign ad exhibiting
personal stories from across the nation19. The ad begins with a simple horn playing, wind
blowing through fields, and crowds of people waving flags. Obama is heard saying “with
each passing month, our country has faced increasingly difficult times, but everywhere I
go, despite the economic crisis, war and uncertainty about tomorrow, I still see optimism,
and hope, and strength.” After showing the stories of the Americans, Obama explains
how every family in America has lived out the American dream in someway.
“Something,” Barack Obama, October 30, 2008, Obama for America, Courtesy of:
“American Stories, American Solutions,” Barack Obama, October 29, 2008, Obama Media Team, Courtesy of:
In his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, the second time
Obama spoke at that convention, he summarized the story he told four years prior, about
his parents and the dream they held that living in America, their son could do whatever
he wanted (Obama, 2008). Several times throughout the speech he references the
“American promise” which is born out of the American dream, and that it is this promise
and this dream which links the hopes of the American people together towards a common
goal (Obama, 2008). He concludes the speech by stating that “we cannot walk alone. At
this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us
keep that promise - that American promise - and in the words of Scripture hold firmly,
without wavering, to the hope that we confess” (Obama, 2008).
As these examples show, Obama frequently discussed hope throughout his
speeches and advertisements. His ability to reach people through his words and messages
enabled him to spread his message of hope. In 2008, 60 percent of the population stated
that Barak Obama made them feel hopeful (Index to the ANES Guide).
Bush Jr’s Fear
In 2004, 43 percent of those surveyed reported that George W. Bush made them
feel afraid, and 56 percent stated that he made them feel angry (Index to the ANES
Guide). Still, Bush succeeded in winning his second term in office, beating Senator John
As his father did sixteen years earlier, the second President Bush too utilized the
impact of fear appeals in the 2004 campaign. Many of the advertisements released by the
Bush campaign used fear tactics in relation to the War on Terror to gain support. In the ad
“Weapons (Florida)” the Bush campaign uses tactics to instill the idea that Kerry is antimilitary and anti-national security20. The advertisement shows images of troops
seemingly in Iraq, with text appearing highlighting key statements of the narrator, and
especially emphasizing words such as “Troops,” “Defend” and “War on Terror.” The
narrator lists a number of defense systems that Kerry opposed, explaining that these
elements that Kerry opposed would be essential to winning the War on Terror. The
narrator concludes by stating, with the written text on the screen: “John Kerry’s Record
on national Security: Troubling.”
The ad “Finish It” used vivid imagery of terrorists, victims, and the wreckage in
the aftermath of terrorist attacks (including of the World Trade Center in 9/11) to elicit
feelings of fear in viewers, as well as an un-sure looking Kerry, and very presidential
looking Bush in front of a large American flag, speaking to troops.
A third advertisement exemplifying the Bush campaign’s use of fear tactics can
be noted through the “Wolves” ad21. The ad begins by showing an overcast sky over a
forest with flashes of wolves walking through the woods. As the commercial progresses,
more wolves appear, until finally a pack of wolves are shown standing gathered in a
clearing, all of which are looking at the camera. In the final seconds of the advertisement,
the wolves begin to run toward the camera. Throughout the ad, the narrator says the
In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist
attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted
“Weapons (Florida),” George W. Bush, April 26, 2004, Maverick Media, Courtesy of:
“Wolves,” George W. Bush, October 22, 2004, Maverick Media, Courtesy of:
to slash America’s intelligence operations by six billion dollars.
Cuts so deep they would have weakened America’s defenses. And
weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.
Powerful and deliberate verbiage is used throughout this advertisement such as
“dangerous,” “slash,” and “weakened/weakness” to elicit feelings both about the state
and security of our nation, as well as about Kerry’s ability to protect the country against
those threats.
Similar verbage and imagergy were used in subsequent advertisements created by
the Bush campaign. Bush continuously highlighted the threat of terrorism, and the
negative implications of having a weak Commander in Chief through his fear appeals,
implying that through voting for him the American public would be given a shield from
the threat and an alternative to the weak.
In 2004, 45 percent of the population believed that since the year before (2003)
the condition of the economy worsened (Index to the ANES Guide). When asked the
same question four years later in 2008, that number doubled and 90 percent believed that
the economy worsened since the previous year (Index to the ANES Guide).
After experiencing one of the longest periods of economic growth in American
history, in 2007, the economy began to turn (Czubocha, 2010). This began with the
bursting of the housing bubble in 2007 (Czubocha, 2010). During the summer of 2008, a
number of events took place in the economic realm which further threatened the nation’s
financial situation. In July, 2008, lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were assisted by
financial authorities due to their critical role in the US housing market (Frame, 2009).
That September, the US government saved the two from bankruptcy in one of the
nation’s largest government bailouts (Frame, 2009). In the same week, Lehman Brothers
stated that they were seeking to be bought, and then filed for bankruptcy, and unlike in
the case of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the government did not intervene (Czubocha,
2010). The build up of these events caused a domino effect of economic meltdowns
around the globe (Czubocha, 2010).
In less than a month as President, Obama, with Congress, passed the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Act was created in response to the
economic crisis, and its goals were to create jobs, spur the economy, and increase
transparency in government spending (The Recovery Act). The economic recovery is still
in progress (hopefully), and the full effects of the Recovery Act are yet to be studied.
Most recently, polls are indicating that the economic standing of the nation is
improving, but only very slightly. A mid-April, 2011 Gallup Poll reports, “Americans’
views of the job market improved slightly…the most upbeat assessment since before the
global economic collapse” (Newport, 2011). As noted, the economy is still in flux and as
the economy changes, so too will the outlook of the 2012 election.
Figure 4. Economy and Major Events 2003-2011:
US Invades
Bush is
Source: TradingEconomics.com; Bureau of Economic Analysis
Obama is
US Government
bailout of Fannie
Mae/ Freddie Mac
Beginning of
Arab Spring
American Recovery
and Reinvestment
International Turmoil
On September 11, 2001, the United States fell victim to the worst attack on
American soil in a generation. In 2002, 83 percent of the country had at least some worry
that the United States would be involved in a war (Index to the ANES Guide). Soon, the
public’s expectations became a reality. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq. Iraq had not
committed an act against the United States, but the Bush administration justified the war
and garnered support by telling the American citizens that Iraq was creating weapons of
mass destruction and helping al Qaeda (Kull, 2004). Soon, the war in Iraq became known
as “Bush’s War,” causing an abandonment of support for the war from many Democrats
based on this connection (Berinsky, 2007). This phenomenon, along with the lack of
progress in the war, caused Bush’s ratings to be low in his second term, and ultimately
resulted in a change of power in the 2006 House Elections (Grose & Oppenheimer,
2007). This trend continued to the 2008 election, both in the elections and with the
public’s approval of the war. In 2009, 58 percent of Americans believed that the US
should not have been involved in Iraq, yet 56 percent thought that the US was doing well
in Iraq (Newport, 2009). Only 36 percent believed that involvement in Afghanistan was a
mistake, and a majority agreed that the US was doing will there, also (Newport, 2009).
Currently, the international crises which have been garnering the attention of
many Americans are being referred to as the “Arab Spring,” a number of demonstrations
rippling through the Arab world. In March of 2011, the United States, along with the
United Nations implemented a no-fly zone over Libya. This crisis is still underway and it
is unclear both how, or when, the conflict will conclude, as well as the impact this will
have, if any, in the upcoming 2012 election. As of late March, 47 percent of Americans
approve of military action in Libya, while 37 percent disapprove (Jones, 2011).
Obama in 2012- Win the Future
The race for the 2012 presidency is just beginning to get underway, with a slow
trickle of Republican nominees entering the race. However, nearly 20 months before the
election, President Obama has announced his candidacy. The main article on the
homepage of The Organizing for America website is titled after Obama’s quote “We Can
All Move Forward Together” with an image of Obama illuminated in a crowd shaking
hands (“Get Involved”).
In the 2011 State of the Union Address, though Obama had not officially
announced his bid for re-election, it seemed as though Obama was gearing up with a new
campaign slogan, Win the Future. In all, Obama used the phrase, or a version of the
phrase 11 times (Obama, 2011). As Dan Blaser, an advertising specialist, stated in a
National Public Radio interview following the State of the Union “it reminds me of ‘Let’s
roll,’ and I think kind it gets into a rallying cry…it’s certainly optimistic and bright and
shiny, but it’s also aggressive and competitive” (Will ‘Win the Future’ Be a Winner for
Obama?, 2011). The future orientation of this slogan, and, as Blaser noted, its
competitive nature, have elements of the American Dream. As has been discussed
throughout this paper, the ‘future’ orientation is a key aspect of hope and the American
Dream. This competitive element is also imbedded into the American Dream, because a
key aspect of the Dream is working for a better future: Americans to not expect to be
given a better future, they work for it. Along with this theme, ‘hopes’ will not come to
fruition if the individual sits idly, the must work for the result.
Obama’s hope-full 2008 campaign followed Bush’s campaign which used tactics
to elicit fear in the American electorate about terrorism. Though the 2012 campaign is not
in full swing yet, and there are still many strategic turns the Obama team could make
before Election Day, it seems as though Obama will continue to use hope as an emotional
appeal. In the last two years of Bush’s second term, voters showed their anger with the
Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war in the 2006 election, and blamed it for the
economic crisis in the 2008 election (Jacobson, 2009). The Obama administration has
dealt with the aftermath of these crises, as well as new issues that have arisen. To date,
Obama’s approval ratings are 43 percent (Presidential Job Approval Center, 2011).
Similarly, at this point in Reagan’s first term, his approval ratings were 41 percent, while
at the same time in Clinton’s, his approval ratings were 46 percent (Presidential Job
Approval Center, 2011). Kennedy’s approval ratings at this time were much higher, with
a 64 percent approval rating (Presidential Job Approval Center, 2011).
The primary objectives of this study were to learn more about the use of hope
appeals in political campaigns and to determine whether or not there are patterns
throughout the history of political campaigns around hope appeals. Specifically, this
study focused on whether there was a sequence connected with what emotional appeal is
used in the election cycle prior to the use of a hope appeal, and what emotional appeal is
used in the election cycle immediately following the use of a hope appeal. Additionally,
the effect, if any, of the economic stability of the country, and the presence of an
international threat or crises during these time periods, and if their effect correlated with
the emotional state of the nation were studied as well. Based on these findings, this
capstone will give recommendations to the Obama campaign moving into the 2012
election cycle.
The results of this study seem to show several interesting findings. Detailed
below are the key findings from this research.
1. As is consistent with previous theoretical and empirical studies, it seems that the
emotional appeal which comes in the election cycle prior to the use of hope
appeals in political campaigns tends to be fear. In three of the four election cycles
studied here, the candidate who won the election in the previous cycle used fear
appeals as a major strategy in their campaigns. Eisenhower’s campaign repeatedly
emphasized the threat of the Cold War turning hot and the memories of the
Korean War to provoke fear in the citizens of the nation. Bush Sr. evoked fear of
crime, fear that his opponent would be an incompetent Commander in Chief in
protecting the country against threats, and fear that Dukakis would lead the
country astray. Bush Jr. highlighted images of terrorist attacks and used fearevoking rhetoric to elicit a feeling of anxiety and distress in his audiences. In each
of these election years tensions were high around the world, be it the escalation of
the Cold War during the Eisenhower and Bush Sr. campaigns, or the threat of
terrorism in Bush Jr.’s campaign. These three candidates capitalized on
highlighting these threats to scare Americans into voting for them. Unlike these
three candidates, Carter did not emphasize fear. At the time Carter ran, the nation
was already distrustful of and unhappy with the Republican Party in the wake of
the Watergate scandal; so, Carter was able to capitalize on the position of ‘a new
kind of government.’
2. This study shows, and is consistent with what some theorize, that hope appeals in
political campaigns tend to be followed by a continued emphasis on hope appeals.
Both Reagan and Clinton followed their initial hopeful campaigns with a second
campaign based on hope, and at this early stage of the 2012 campaign, it seems as
though Obama will do the same. Reagan’s It’s Morning Again in America
campaign continually emphasized the improvements to the nation during his four
years as president and acknowledged that the nation has potential to get even
better. Clinton followed the same technique in his 1996 campaign, emphasizing
the economic progress of the nation. Obama, too, has begun a campaign using
hope appeals for his 2012 campaign, using forward looking and optimistic
language in the few campaign messages his team has constructed thus far.
Johnson is the only candidate of those studied who did not utilize hope
appeals in the election cycle following Kennedy’s use of hope. This is
inconsistent with the other campaigns, but the Johnson campaign was unique in
other ways. Unlike the aforementioned candidates, Johnson had not led the initial
hope campaign. Whereas the previous candidates were continuing their previous
hopeful campaigns in their second run for office, Johnson was running his first
campaign as the Presidential nominee and in the wake of the assassination of his
hopeful predecessor.
Based on this, and the knowledge that Bush Sr., who followed the hopeful
campaign of Ronald Reagan, won his election using a fear based campaign, it is
inferred that using a hope based campaign following a hope based campaign may
only be effective if it is the re-election campaign of the candidate. Furthermore,
the candidate, if running for re-election must commit fully to the hope-based
campaign. Carter, for example used hope in his initial campaign. When he ran for
re-election, he used hope appeals to some degree, but it was not the focus of his
3. Based on the results of this analysis, it can be noted that the state of the economy
correlates significantly with the use of hope appeals. In each of the cases studied,
the US economy was facing turmoil immediately before the election years of the
initial hopeful campaign (1960, 1980, 1992 and 2008). Likewise, in both Reagan
and Clinton’s case, the economy improved through their first term. These two
candidates gave hope to the American people in their initial campaigns, and once
elected fulfilled those hopes with an improved economy. They were then able to
emphasize these successes, and provide hope for even more improvement in their
second terms.
Carter provided hope in his campaign which earned him the presidency, but
then the economy failed. Americans lost faith in Carter’s ability to fulfill their
hopes, and Carter was not convincing with the bits of hope he showed in his run
for re-election. At this time, the American electorate turned to the more hopeful
candidate, Reagan.
From these results, it seems in an economic recession, the non-incumbent
party should capitalize on hope appeals. If elected, and the economy improves, as
seen through Reagan and Clinton, the candidate should reiterate the appeals of
hope in his or her run for re-election.
4. The international turmoil has little correlation with the use of hope campaigns.
For instance, throughout the Cold War, as we have seen, campaigns emphasizing
different emotional appeals, ranging from hope to fear were used and were
effective during this time. Additionally, Bush Sr., who was renowned for his work
in the international realm, was not elected for a second term due to his lack of
focus or understanding of the American peoples’ experience with the economy.
With regards to recommendations for the Obama ’12 campaign, it seems as
though they are moving in the right direction. Obama is naturally optimistic and has the
ability to garner support and enthusiasm from people of all walks of life. The
recommendations moving forward are to continue to build on this strength of optimism.
As discussed above, as the candidate running for his second term who already ran on a
platform of hope, he should continue in this manner. If the economy continues to
improve, those statistics should be highlighted, and an emphasis should be given on the
hope that things will get even better. If, however the economy does not see major gains,
he should emphasize that this recovery will take time, point out the gains (however
meager) that have been made, and continue on with a strong hopeful stance, yet not an
overly lofty hopeful stance.
There are limitations to this study. First, only four campaigns using hope
appeals were studied and there are certainly more cases of hope appeals being used in
presidential elections, as well as elections for other forms of elected officials which could
be studied in order to gain a better understanding of the use of emotional appeals in
political campaigns. Second, only a limited number of factors were included in discussing
the events surrounding the focal campaigns. Further research would be useful to
understand the use and applicability of hope appeals in conjunction with other variables
such as the status and importance of social issues, like healthcare, during these times.
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face economic hardships. Next, a non-incumbent party candidate inspires the nation
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economic prosperity to the country. This President then re-emphasizes their use of hope
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