The Impact of Images in 2012 Presidential Advertising

by Amanda Raimer

Widener University American Government Student

A New York Times article, “Images, Themes and Props in Presidential Campaign Ads”, listed statistics about the kinds of subjects that were contained in the different ads for each party and how they were used in the ads. While many of the statistics were similar between the parties, there were a few that were glaringly different. For instance, only 1% of Obama’s campaign ads show “tears or visually sad” subjects, while 21% of Romney’s ads focused on this pertaining mostly to unemployment and taxes. This makes sense in that Obama is attempting to focus on the positive parts of his past four years and reminding people of their hardships will remind them that it was under during his presidency that these things happened; Romney is using these hardships against Obama to convince voters they don’t want another four years like the past four.

Another drastic difference showed in the number of ads that focused on the elderly, with Obama having 38 ads and Romney only having two. I thought this was interesting because senior citizens are normally thought to be majority Republicans, so then why didn’t seniors appear in more of those ads? It is possible that the Romney campaign believes they have already secured the vote of the elderly and don’t want to waste money, but the Obama campaign is trying to sway more elderly to vote Democrat and so includes more seniors in their ads so that this population feels included under the Obama administration.

One statistic that I thought was interesting was that Obama not only used the American flag in his ads 5 times as much as Romney, but he also made the flag appear in a positive light, while Romney sometimes showed the flag as damaged or burning. In this case I think that Obama has the right idea on this strategy. Romney is trying to show that under Obama we are not safe and the country is disintegrating, but at the same time he should try to also use the flag in a positive light while talking about the American future under his presidency. I feel like positive and progressive outlooks are more effective than just looking at the past and only talking about what went wrong in the past.

Overall these statistics showed me how the candidates use different subjects to evoke certain emotions in their audiences. Even the same subject matter can be utilized to provoke very different reactions depending on the context. This article gave me insight into what the candidates are most concerned about and their strategies for dealing with those issues.


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