Mundorf, Joanne [faculty advisor, Department of Communication Studies]




politics; persuasion; presidential campaigns; communication; history


Persuasion has been the foundation and objective of political campaigns since the first contested presidential election in 1796. While this foundation has not changed, the methods of persuading have undergone many changes over the years. Persuasion tactics of past presidential campaigns have used mediums such as print and television but it was not until the last two presidential elections that voters had the internet to supplement their decision-making process.

It is with the rise of the internet that we can see the greatest shift in contemporary campaigns tactics. Candidates’ websites serve as a “one stop shop” for voters to attain more in depth information on the candidates, but more importantly because of partnerships with voter registration organizations, it serves to persuade potential voters to commit to coming to the polls.

This paper will provide a brief history of the evolution of presidential campaigns and their persuasive tactics and mediums starting from the first contested presidential election of 1796 to this past 2008 election. Additionally, this paper will provide an in depth analysis of the three main mediums used in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Examples of each medium from the past two elections will be discussed to further understand its’ audience, strategy and shift of focus on voter participation. Lastly, this paper will discuss the influence of these persuasion tactics on the campaign and voters.