AuthorPFAU, MICHAEL WALTON.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study examined attack and inoculation message strategies in political campaign communication. A total of 341 initial and followup treatment interviews and 392 control interviews were completed among potential voters in a U.S. Senate campaign during October 1986. The study hypothesized that character attack messages directed to supporters of opposing candidates exert more influence than issue attack messages. This prediction was not supported. Contrary to prediction, the results indicated that, during the latter stages of a political campaign featuring known candidates, issue attack messages exert more persuasive impact than character attack messages. However, the primary purpose of this investigation was to apply McGuire's inoculation theory to political campaign communication. The study hypothesized that political campaign messages can be designed to inoculate supporters of candidates against the subsequent attack messages of opposing candidates. This prediction was supported. In addition, the results supported the hypothesis that inoculation confers more resistance to subsequent attack messages among strong political party identifiers as opposed to weak identifiers, nonidentifiers and crossovers. Contrary to prediction, however, the study found that inoculation confers more resistance among Democrat party loyalists as opposed to Republican party loyalists. The results of this investigation extend the scope of inoculation theory to new domain, and at the same time, suggest a new strategic approach for candidates in political campaigns.