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Politics on the Screen: Using Moving Images to Win Votes

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In previous posts we’ve written about ways that candidates for political office have used media, including posters, buttons and flyersmusic, and debates to solicit votes. With the addition of the National Screening Room and other film resources to the Library of Congress online collections, students can now study political advertisements that were shown in movie theaters or on television.

Ask students to think about political advertisements they have seen on television or online. What words would they use to describe them? How do the advertisements make them feel about the candidates? Do the ads provide enough information for them to make an informed decision about the candidates?

Use the Library’s primary source analysis tool (click “motion pictures” in the “Format” dropdown to customize the questions) to help students analyze the film “Visitin’ ‘round at Coolidge Corners.” Why do they think this film was made? What does it tell viewers about the man? Ask students if  this film would persuade them to vote for Calvin Coolidge and why. Encourage students to listen to this recording of Coolidge from 1920, before he became Vice President of the United States. Do they think that the recording or the film would be a more effective campaign advertisement for Coolidge?

Next students can watch “Peace, little girl,” better known as the “Daisy” political spot, and use the analysis tool to record their thinking and analysis. What is their reaction to this advertisement? How was the viewer intended to react as a result of watching the commercial? What do students want to know after watching it?

After watching the two advertisements, encourage students to list what they think needs to be included in an effective political advertisement. How effective do they find “Visitin’ ‘round at Coolidge Corners” or “Daisy”?  How effective do they think each might have been at the time it was created? Ask students what they would add or remove to make these ads more effective for a current audience.

How can you use these two political advertisements to help students effectively analyze the political commercials available on television or on social media? Share your activity ideas in the comments.

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