Current Events: Primary Election 2016


PresidentialCampaign2016Elections present voters with important choices. A national race could change the direction of the country, it is a time to consider the issues which you care about and decide which candidate you support. Even if you are under 18 and not yet eligible to vote, election campaigns offer an excellent way to learn about the people and issues that affect your future. All too often, slogans, name recognition and personality are all that come through in campaign materials. Because television continues to dominate political campaigns, with the Internet as an every growing presence, it is difficult to move beyond a candidate’s image to the substance of a campaign.

See through distortion techniques
PrintAll candidates are trying to sell themselves to voters. Sometimes their language is so skillfully crafted that they distort the truth in ways that are difficult for even the most careful observer to detect. Here are examples of distortion techniques that you should watch for as you review candidates’ campaign materials.

Common distortion techniques:

  • Name calling/Appeals to prejudice: These are attacks on an opponent based on characteristics that will not affect performance in office. Accusations such as, “My opponent is arrogant and full of hot air,” do not give any real information about the candidate. Reference to race, ethnicity or marital status can be subtly used to instill prejudice.
  • Rumor mongering: These include statements such as, “Everyone says my opponent is a crook, but I have no personal knowledge of any wrongdoing,” which imply, but do not state, that the opponent is guilty.
  • Guilt by associations: These are statements such as, “We all know that Candidate B is backed by big money interest,” that attack candidates because of their supporters rather than because of their stands on the issues.
  • Catchwords: These are phrases such as “Law and Order” or “un-American” designed to trigger a knee-jerk emotional reaction rather than to inform.
  • Passing the blame: These are instances in which a candidate denies responsibility for an action or blames an opponent for things over which they had no control.
  • Promising the sky: These are unrealistic promises that no elected official could fulfill.
  • Evading real issues: These include instances in which candidates may avoid answering direct questions, offer only vague solutions, or talk about the benefits of proposed programs but never get specific about possible problems or costs.

Evaluate candidates’ use of television
Television is a visual medium dependent on good pictures and timely events to tug at your emotions and keep your interest. Candidates are aware of the potential power of television and try to use it to their advantage. For instance, in a newscast, the picture you see of a crowd with banners and balloons cheering for a candidate may have been staged by a media advisor whose job is to make the candidate look good on television. As you watch news coverage of campaigns, be aware of staged events (also known as photo opportunities) and try to find out what the candidate is saying about the issues.

The same warning applies to televised political advertisements. When you watch political ads, you need to be aware of how the medium influences your reactions. Ask yourself some questions as you watch. Did you find out anything about issues or qualifications or was the ad designed only to affect your attitude or feelings about a candidate? How important were the script, setting and music?


GOP Presidential Candidates 2016
Who would be the best Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election? (listed alphabetically)
Jeb Bush
Dr. Ben Carson
Gov. Chris Christie
Sen. Ted Cruz
Carly Fiorina
Jim Gilmore
Sen. Lindsey Graham
Mike Huckabee
Gov. Bobby Jindal
Gov. John Kasich
George Pataki
Sen. Rand Paul
Rick Perry
Sen. Marco Rubio
Rick Santorum
Donald Trump
Gov. Scott Walker


Democratic Presidential Candidates 2016
Who would be the best Democratic nominee in the 2016 presidential election? (listed alphabetically)
Lincoln Chafee
Hillary Clinton
Martin O’Malley
Bernie Sanders
Jim Webb

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