It happens sooner or later in every political campaign: attack ads drown out the promises of positive campaigns. Do these dark battles have any value?
The satirical magazine Puck mocks the Republican Party's dirty tactics in the 1884 presidential campaign and foreshadows its loss.Newseum Collection
OBJECTIVE: Students will be able to analyze some of the techniques utilized in campaign ads and discuss the pros and cons of negative ads from the perspectives of candidates and voters.
MATERIALS: Copies of the case study handout, one per student (download); Organizing Evidence worksheet, one per group (download); access to NewseumED.org case study artifacts; NewseumED Pinterest board of related resources (optional)
- Ask students how they hear about campaign news? What sources do they use for updates on the candidates and election events?
- This case study is one of four in the Campaign Messages section of the EDCollection that looks at communication strategies in speeches, news coverage, ads and all-encompassing campaign trail events. Explain that the case study they will be looking at will raise questions about the strengths and weaknesses of each source for the public.
- Read the Explore the Debate question aloud and/or write it on the board. Read them the overview that sets the scene for group work. Tell them they will use historical and contemporary examples to reach a consensus in small groups on an answer to the debate question.
- Pass out copies of the case study and the Organizing Evidence worksheet. Have the groups read each of the four Election Essentials and use the Questions to Consider to help guide the discussion. They should complete sections 1 and 2 on the worksheet.
- Have the students look at the Pages From History artifacts for the case study on NewseumED.org and complete section 3 on the worksheet. Give the groups 15 minutes to collect and organize information to formulate evidence-supported arguments for their answer to the debate question. (If time is an issue, skip the artifacts or assign as homework.)
- Ask the groups to share their conclusions and reasoning. You may want to use the Questions to Consider again to push and expand the debate.