Try to imagine what it must have been like to elect a national leader before the days of television or even radio. Consider Abraham Lincoln, who ranks among the greatest U.S. presidents. Although he is famous for many of his speeches, relatively few people in the 1860s would ever have heard him speak. Most would not know what his voice sounded like and what impression his words made as he spoke. Many would have seen his image but not know what he was like in person and the impact of his physical presence. Despite how we honor Lincoln today, he was not nearly as popular when he was president. There were plenty of critics who did not see him as competent. Consider one factor—Lincoln’s appearance. If you knew little else about him, how would his photo influence your view of him?
Contrast that experience to what we know today. All forms of media cover the U.S. presidential elections. You get constant opportunities to evaluate firsthand a presidential or vice presidential candidate’s characteristics as a communicator and qualities as a leader. As you examined through the reading in the text, those characteristics include social attractiveness, authority, and credibility. And those same characteristics also apply to other people in our lives and inform how we pay attention to them and how they influence our thinking and actions.
For this Assignment, you will explore the characteristics of a communicator and how source factors in persuasion influence your views of a speaker and the person’s words and ideas. You will analyze a national presidential or vice presidential debate for your response to the two candidates, with emphasis on your judgment of their credibility.
- Select one of the following U.S. presidential or vice presidential debates as the focus of your assignment:
- John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon: September 26, 1960
- George H. W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro: October 11, 1984
- Barack Obama and John McCain: September 26, 2008
- Access the media link related to your chosen presidential or vice-presidential debate in the Learning Resources to view the debate. (You are not required to watch the entire debate.) Access the associated transcript for reference in citing examples from the debate.
- Review the Week 4 reading in the text, paying particular attention to the relevant information in Chapter 8. For example, note core characteristics and biases of persuaders.
By Day 7
Submit a 3- to 5-page paper that addresses the following:
- Describe examples from the debate that exemplify the core characteristics of the debaters.
- Explain the role of context in the debate.
- Describe the debaters’ biases.
- Explain the impact of the debaters’ social attractiveness on your analysis.
- Based on your analysis, rate each participant on a scale of 1–5; 1 for not credible and 5 for highly credible. Support your rating with information from the Week 4 Learning Resources and the specific debate.
- Evaluate your biases for or against each candidate, and explain how they informed your rating of the person.