Racial Discourse in Political Advertisements: An Historical View

35 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 17 Mar 2015

Date Written: September 5, 2009


We explore the extent to which and the ways in which race-based messages have been used in election campaigns that feature racial minorities. We examine televised political advertisements from federal election contests where at least one of the candidates was a member of a racial minority group. In this paper, we present a descriptive account of the types of messages that have been used, differentiating between racist and racial appeals and implicit and explicit messages. We also take into consideration candidates’ parties, the region of the country in which the contests took place, the year of the election, and the specific type of appeal that was made to identify trends in racialized campaign discourse over the past three decades. Results reveal that both White candidates and minorities appeal to race, but in vastly different ways. Analysis includes discussion about the implications for research on the effects of such messages on potential voters.

Keywords: political communication, race, Black, African American, Latino, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern, election, campaign, advertisement

Suggested Citation

Caliendo, Stephen M. and McIlwain, Charlton D., Racial Discourse in Political Advertisements: An Historical View (September 5, 2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1451410

Stephen M. Caliendo (Contact Author)

North Central College ( email )

30 N. Brainard Street
Naperville, IL 60540
United States
6306375344 (Phone)

Charlton D. McIlwain

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

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