Functional Theory has been applied to a variety of election campaign messages, including candidacy announcement speeches; TV spots; debates; direct mail brochures; candidate webpages; nomination acceptance addresses; vice presidential debates; senate, gubernatorial, and mayoral debates; senate, gubernatorial, and house TV spots; and debates and TV spots from other countries. This approach argues that election messages address one of three functions (acclaims, attacks, defenses) and one of two topics (policy, character). This study reports a meta-analysis of several Functional Theory predictions: acclaims are more common than attacks (defenses are consistently the least common function and were not tested here); policy is discussed more than character; when discussing past deeds incumbents acclaim more and attack less than challengers; attacks, and policy statements, are more common in general than primary campaigns; when addressing general goals and ideals, attacks outnumber acclaims. General goals were the basis of more acclaims and fewer attacks than future plans. Candidates use fewer acclaims and more attacks than other sources. Two hypotheses were not confirmed: incumbents did not attack more and acclaim less than challengers generally or when discussing future plans. The essay concludes with suggestions for future research in this area.
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Benoit, William L.
"Meta-Analysis of Research on the Functional Theory of Political Campaign Discourse,"
Speaker & Gavel: Vol. 54:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/speaker-gavel/vol54/iss1/2