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On the Campaign Trail

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Students understand persuasion techniques used by politicians when running for office, deepening their ability to analyze media produced by campaigns and separate fact from fiction.

This unit introduces students to the ways in which political candidates try to shape their image and public opinion to garner votes, and how the news media can shape their image. It includes pre- and post-visit activities designed to bracket the On the Campaign Trail NewseumED class, plus a class-specific Newseum gallery guide. Through these experiences, students decode political ads, analyze a candidate’s image, develop their media literacy skills and deepen their understanding of the role of freedom of press in our democracy.

Note: You can find additional activities, worksheets, handouts related to elections by searching the “Elections” filter on NewseumED.

OBJECTIVE: Students understand persuasion techniques used by politicians when running for office, deepening their ability to analyze media produced by campaigns and separate fact from fiction.

 TARGET AUDIENCE: Middle and high school

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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


  • How do political candidates attempt to influence the general public and the press?
  • How have the techniques used by candidates to sway voters changed over time? How have they remained the same?
  • What is political image? How is it shaped, and how is it used?
  • Why is being an informed, critical media consumer important in a democracy?
+ More


  • Deconstructing and interpreting media
  • Elections and politics
+ More


  1. Before Your Visit
    • It’s All About Image: In this activity, students will learn about political image and its importance during campaigns. Students will identify and interpret the image of various political candidates, discuss how image is created and explain the influence of image on the public’s perception of candidates.
  2. During Your Visit
  • NewseumED class – On the Campaign Trail: Examine historical and contemporary campaign ads, learn how to navigate conflicting messages and leave empowered to separate fact from fiction.
  • On the Campaign Trail Gallery Guide: This guide helps students navigate the News Corporation News History Gallery and the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery at the Newseum to explore how political campaigns and the media shape candidates’ public image and influence voters.
  1. After Your Visit
    • Decoding an Editorial Cartoon: In this activity, students will analyze editorial cartoons from history and today to explore the role of illustrated commentary in politics and society over time.
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