Political Behavior, Peffley, PS 271, Political Behavior

Written Assignment No. 3

Application of Persuasion Principles in Age of Propaganda

Due April 25


            The Democrats and Republicans are at it again. The spirit of copperation after the terrorist attacks has given way to partisan attacks as the 2002 elections draw near.  The good news is that one of the parties (either one, you choose) has hired you to design a negative television ad to attack their opponent(s) where they are most vulnerable—on one of the opponent’s programs, policy proposals or their voting record. Your job is to design a negative attack ad to help defeat the opposition candidate(s).   

            Specifically, your assignment is to use the principles of persuasion presented in the Pratkanis and Aronson book, Age of Propaganda, to design your attack ad.  You will be writing a 3-4 page memo to your candidate or party where you briefly outline your strategy and apply several of the principles of persusion in Pratkanis and Aronson in designing your attack ad.  You should assume, as the authors do, that much of the public will process your messages via a peripheral route of persuasion as opposed to a central route. You will be graded primarily on your ability to explain clearly the principles of persuasion you decide to use and apply them appropriately to the task at hand—NOT on your knowledge of the details of the actual politics of the matter or how much political "savvy" you can demonstrate in orchestrating a detailed, complicated public relations campaign. Indeed, you may decide, after reading Age of Propaganda, that a 30-minute information-loaded documentary based on the actual "true facts" of the issue would be counter-productive (if so, explain why at the outset of your paper).  Try to have fun with this assignment!  Peripheral route persuasion is not based on the classical rules of reasoned debate!

            Begin with a brief overview of the general strategy you have decided to pursue. You might identify sources of opposition or support within the public that you intend to target with your ads, or you may plead ignorance on such information and design an ad campaign designed to appeal to the general public.  You might choose to organize your paper along the different aspects of the source of the message, the characteristics of the message, the characteristics of the audience, and the medium.  These are only suggestions; you make these decisions. Use principles of persuasion scattered throughout the book, not just those in the first few chapters.

            In the last third or fourth of your paper, assume you are overcome by remorse at your shameless attempt to manipulate the public (scoundrel!), and resign your position with one of the parties. In an effort to assuage your guilt, you volunteer your services (without pay) to design a series of public service announcements to "inoculate" the public, not only against the ads you designed, but against manipulative propaganda appeals in general. In other words, what messages would you run in an attempt to "immunize" the public against your ads and to counteract persuasive appeals in general?