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Comparing Presidential Campaign Advertising 1964-1980

95 min
  • Students will be able to identify strategies behind campaign advertising.
  • Students will identify how current events shape the nature of campaign adverting.

Students will need to have devices with internet connections to complete this lesson. Desktop, laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets would all be fine for accessing the resources used in this lesson.

In this activity, students will view two presidential TV spots from the 1964 campaign. They will analyze the propaganda messages contained in them.

  1. Teacher should play the “I like Ike” TV advertisement for Dwight D. Eisenhower for the class and allow time to answer the analysis questions on Handout A: Warm-Up—Analysis Sheet.
  2. Teacher will lead a class discussion, inviting students to share their answers to the questions, leading to a class consensus on the best responses. Teacher should emphasize the ways the Eisenhower campaign message was delivered in both positive and negative ways.
  3. Teacher will then play the resource one more time so students can watch, now with an eye for the details revealed in the class discussion.

Students will examine campaign materials from two key elections of the twentieth century, 1964 and 1980. Using Handout B: Feeding Cold War Fears in the 1964 campaign and Handout C: The Reagan Revolution, students will watch and read a selection of resources and answer analysis questions about their content, imaging, and message. Teachers may wish to distribute these “handouts” electronically, as that would work most efficiently for accessing the resources.

Students will now work in pairs, or small groups. The pairs will share their answers to the questions on the resources and come to consensus on the answers. The teacher should move about the room from group to group, monitoring their discussion, ensuring the students are on task, and offering insight where the students are having difficulty.

Students will write a reflection essay on one of the following prompts. Whichever one they choose, they must cite specific details from at least three of the resources provided.

  1. Compare and contrast the 1964 Johnson campaign and the 1980 Reagan campaign, identifying what made each one successful.
  2. Compare and contrast the 1964 Goldwater campaign and the 1980 Carter campaign, identifying where and why their messages were not effective in achieving victory.