Education of Thom-orrow

Good afternoon and welcome back!

In honor of Ted Cruz announcing his run for presidency, this week we will analyze political advertisements and the ways political figures use advertising to sway the public’s opinion. Most political advertisements are developed to inform, and inspire, immediate and extended audiences of issues surrounding a campaign, but each political event calls for a multitude of attack ads. These ads can be more influential than the previously mentioned methods of advertising. I’m sure you remember the recent ‘battle’ between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan. If you as a voter realized that their ads aimed to deter voters from the opposition’s ideas and keep them from resonating with the voters, then you probably chose to avoid their YouTube channels during their run for office.

How are these ads so effective and why do we remember them long after the election is over? Take a look at one of the many ads focusing on Thom Tillis’ neglect of education’s importance in North Carolina.

One method of analyzing this advertisement is focusing on Hagan’s appeal to fear. In politics, education and all facets of education are always debated, but there are ways to frame a message regarding education that yield a change in attitudes, or behaviors. The use of phrases such as “terrible for education,” “millions of dollars in cuts,” and “children don’t receive the attention they need” cause the audience to form attitudes towards his campaign without him being present. The extended parallel process model can explain the effects of fear appeal messages in more detail. When an audience is provided a series of threats, their brains are automatically processing the perceived threats, severity of the threats, and their own susceptibility to the threats presented. Susceptibility is the extent a person believes the threat can actually happen, and since most people have children education cuts become a huge concern. The severity is obviously how severe we perceive these threats to be in our own lives. In this particular commercial, Hagan displays the negative aspects of Tillis’ campaign in large letters and shows the millions of dollars he allegedly proposed to cut in bold to create a sense of urgency. Self-efficacy also plays a role in this model, which is simply our ability to engage in the recommended course of action, or in this case vote for Kay Hagan. However, the Extended Parallel Process Model states a fear appeal is only effective if there is a strongly perceived threat and efficacy.

There are three responses described in the EPPM: no response, fear control response, and danger control response. We are more likely to avoid making the recommended action, if we do not perceive danger. This response or lack of response rather, is understood as no response. The fear control response takes place when we believe there is danger, but we believe more strongly that the recommended action will not be effective. A person that believes there is a present danger and that the recommended action will protect him or her from that danger, is an example of when the fear appeal will be successful.

I hope you pay close attention to these types of advertisements this election ‘season’ and be careful in the way you perceive the messages and actions being proposed. We would like you to share some of the most extreme or most effective fear appeal political advertisements that you can remember.

-Colby Cummings, Connor Gold, Chase Seymour