The impact of television on the making of the president (1952 to 1992)

Roland Francis Recker, Salve Regina University


This dissertation examines how technological developments in the electronic media have affected presidential political campaigns since television first became a key aspect of national politics in 1952. More specifically, a comparison of the presidential campaigns of 1952 and 1992 reveals how television has affected the nomination process, the way TV is used by candidates and network news organizations to communicate their messages, and the effect of television on campaign financing. While recognizing such impressive developments as satellite communications, videotape recording, and computers, this study suggests that the social consequences of these technological advances have been mixed. While allowing for increased information to be communicated in a more timely manner, technical innovations have sometimes led to a less informed, less knowledgeable, and often indifferent electorate. They have, in some instances, affected negatively the political process in particular and society in general. The introductory chapter provides an overview of the topic with specific reference to the philosophical aspects of the technological changes in the modern media. After a review and evaluation of the relevant literature, a detailed examination of differences between the two national election campaigns separated by forty years will demonstrate the changes in news broadcasting as well as the transformation of election tactics as seen in the messages carried by the electronic media. This study, which employs an historical and analytical approach to the problem, includes a personal interview with former NBC reporter Sander Vanocur. It also makes use of a questionnaire, distributed to a non-random, purposive sample of participants, intended to elicit the views of those who actually voted in the 1992 presidential election. A narrative explanation of the survey results is complemented by selective charts and graphs to assist in analyzing the data. Survey findings are assessed together with journalistic critiques in order to make sense out of current political-media issues. A final chapter provides a set of questions that helps to pull together and compare different perspectives. While identifying consistencies and anomalies, this chapter also proposes avenues of further research.

Subject Area

Political science|American history|Mass media

Recommended Citation

Recker, Roland Francis, "The impact of television on the making of the president (1952 to 1992)" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI9833674.