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Race Appeal

How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns

Authored by Charlton D. McIlwain and Stephen M. Caliendo

Publication Year: 2011

In our evolving American political culture, whites and blacks continue to respond very differently to race-based messages and the candidates who use them. Race Appeal examines the use and influence such appeals have on voters in elections for federal office in which one candidate is a member of a minority group.

Charlton McIlwain and Stephen Caliendo use various analysis methods to examine candidates who play the race card in political advertisements. They offer a compelling analysis of the construction of verbal and visual racial appeals and how the news media covers campaigns involving candidates of color.

Combining rigorous analyses with in-depth case studies-including an examination of race-based appeals in the historic 2008 presidential election—Race Appeal is a groundbreaking work that represents the most extensive and thorough treatment of race-based appeals in American political campaigns to date.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

We met in Princeton, New Jersey, in the summer of 2000 while teaching at Princeton University as part of the Junior State of America summer-school program. We had just begun our scholarly careers—Charlton was finishing his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma, and Stephen was heading into the final year of a three-year visiting assistant professorship at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. It was a transitional period for both of us, as Charlton was preparing to begin his appointment at ...

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Introduction: The Political Landscape of Race-Based Appeals

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pp. 1-8

Willie Horton’s racialized, criminalized, and vilified mug shot became the centerpiece of presidential hopeful George H. W. Bush’s (and allied political interest groups’) 1988 strategy to mar Michael Dukakis’s image. First showcased in a set of now infamous political ads, Horton became the subject of headlines in national newspapers and led television newscasts across the country. Deploying the ads drew controversy and sparked debates pitting Blacks against Whites, northerners against Southerners, and ...

Part I. The Empirical Evidence on Race Appeals

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1. Producing Race Appeal: The Political Ads of White and Minority Candidates

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pp. 11-45

Willie Horton’s Image achieved iconic status during the 1988 presidential campaign. His darkened, menacing Black visage came to represent an amalgam of visceral associations: Black brutality and unbridled sexual appetite; White innocence and vulnerability; and “liberal” crime policy run amok. The Democratic presidential candidate, Michael Dukakis, became entangled in the conglomeration of associated fears produced by the political ads, by news media ad watches, and by social ...

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2. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Deploying Racist Appeals.among Black and White Voters

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pp. 46-66

Communicative processes are interdependent, making it necessary for media effects studies to address the interplay between the sender and receiver and the message itself. Now that we have a solid understanding of the types of messages that are employed in electoral contests in which racial minority candidates are involved, we need to explore what, if any, effects can result when those messages are received by (potential) voters. The next two chapters are dedicated to answering those questions. ...

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3. Neither Black nor White: The Fruitless Appeal to Racial Authenticity

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pp. 67-93

Racist appeals have long since been shown to have more or less significant effects on potential voters’ opinions about public policy. While their effect on perceptions of candidates and voting choice seems to reside with related perceptions about which candidate has appealed to race in his (or her) political advertising communication, it is apparent that viewing advertising appeals by a biracial pair of candidates influences that perception. The view that one candidate appealed to race has the potential to ...

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4. Competing Novelties: How Newspapers Frame the Election Campaigns of Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans

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pp. 94-126

In Chapter 1, we argued that White candidates frequently construct political ads with potential for racist appeal. Further, we argued that the stereotypes and prejudices expressed and codified in those ads greatly influence the image that candidates of color project to the voting public. At that point, however, our assessment of race-based appeals extended only to the visibly produced but not yet broadcast advertising spot. The previous two chapters advanced us to that next milestone in this story: demonstrating that ...

Part II. Case Studies in Race Appeal

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5. Racializing Immigration Policy: Issue Ads in the 2006 Election

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pp. 129-159

In Chapter 1, we focused our attention on the primary forms of race-based appeals that have appeared in political campaign advertisements over the past three decades. We specifically described how race-based appeals were communicated through various combinations of racialized language and images. We discussed the electoral circumstances that gave rise to their deployment and speculated on the ways that such ads might intentionally or unintentionally disadvantage one candidate or another or work to frame ...

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6. Harold Ford Jr., Mel Martinez, and Artur Davis: Case Studies.in Racially Framed News

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pp. 160-183

When we refer to race-based appeals, we largely refer to communications that emanate from the candidates and their surrogates or supporters. However, as we noted in Chapter 4, the news media often buttress these appeals in the way that they frame their reporting of election contests. That is, when the mass media go beyond simply conveying candidates’ appeals to racialized framing, they may often work to support or undermine race-based claims made by candidates. In keeping with their ...

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7. Barack Obama, Race-Based Appeals, and the 2008 Presidential Election

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pp. 184-216

When we began delving into the subject of racialized political communication in 2001, we never seriously imagined the possibility of a Black president. When we personally encountered Barack Obama for the first time in the Massachusetts State House chambers in 2004, among a giddy group of cheering teenagers (who by 2008 would be of voting age), we—like many Americans—got our first glimpse of a potentially serious run. Yet when we began assembling this book just before the announcement ...

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Epilogue. Racialized Campaigns: What Have We Learned, and Where Do We Go from Here?

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pp. 217-222

As it is with any kind of complex phenomena, developing substantive claims about, evidence of, and enduring explanations for how race and electoral politics intersect in America’s recent history and present day is difficult. Some things stay relatively the same, as we find in our studies here. Racial prejudices and stereotypes persist in America’s racial imagination; the types of race-based advertising appeals and individuals’ statements we have analyzed here bear witness to this fact. ...


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pp. 223-238


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pp. 239-248


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pp. 249-259

E-ISBN-13: 9781439902776
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439902769

Page Count: 258
Publication Year: 2011