Issues as Image in Political Campaign Commercials

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This paper examines the use of “issue” commercials as a means of developing a candidate's image in a political campaign. The study was conducted through a participant‐observation of the 1982 gubernatorial campaign of Republican Phil Batt of Idaho. During the general election campaign the Batt organization employed a series of six “issue” commercials‐television spots which addressed specific policy issues‐in an attempt to build a positive public image for the candidate in three areas: basic human and social values, personality, and leadership. The campaign also sought to erode the popular public image of the incumbent with those same issue messages. This paper focuses on the verbal and visual messages used in those commercials and how those elements were used to achieve the campaign's image building goals. The paper concludes with a discussion of the political circumstances underlying the use of image‐oriented campaigns and the implications of the issues‐as‐image strategy for the democratic process.