• Character Clearinghouse image

Picking a President

Richard Emanuel, Alabama State University


Picking a President: Candidate Over Content; Personality Over Platform

Abstract

In the week leading up to the 2008 presidential election, brief excerpts from the Democratic and Republican Party platforms on “Higher Education” were presented to undergraduate students (N=244) at a major HBCU (Historically Black College/University) along with a web address which included the presidential candidate’s name. However, unknown to the respondents, the web addresses had been swapped so that the “McCain” web address headlined the Democratic platform statement, and the “Obama” web address headlined the Republican platform statement.The students, 80% of whom identified themselves as affiliated with the Democratic Party, claimed to agree most with the so-called “Obama” platform statement by a margin of 3 to 2. In other words, 63% of the Democrats claimed to agree most with the Republican platform statement! The percentage differences were greater than the margin of error.The most plausible reason for this is that they saw the “Obama” name in the web address that headlined the platform statement and simply supported the “Obama” statement regardless of its substance. In other words, students chose the candidate over the content; they chose personality over platform.


Picking a President Revisited

Abstract

Undergraduate students (N=272) were asked which major political party’s platform
statement they agreed with most. The statements were headlined with the presidential
candidate’s name, but unknown to the respondents, the web addresses had been
swapped so that the “Romney” web address headlined the Democratic platform statement,
and the “Obama” web address headlined the Republican platform statement.
Most (65%) of the Democrats agreed with the Republican platform statement!
The most plausible reason for this is that respondents picked the “Obama” statement
regardless of its substance. The findings are identical to those from 2008; students
chose the candidate over the content.


 

Richard Emanuel has taught at two‐year and four‐year private and public colleges. He is currently a Professor of Communication at Alabama State University in Montgomery. He can be contacted by email at remanuel@alasu.edu.