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Issues, Candidate Image, and Priming: The Use of Private Polls in Kennedy's 1960 Presidential Campaign

Lawrence R. Jacobs and Robert Y. Shapiro
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 88, No. 3 (Sep., 1994), pp. 527-540
DOI: 10.2307/2944793
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2944793
Page Count: 14
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Issues, Candidate Image, and Priming: The Use of Private Polls in Kennedy's 1960 Presidential Campaign
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Abstract

Interpretations of electoral campaigns have pointed to two mutually exclusive strategies: candidates are expected to focus either on policy issues or on personal image. We argue, however, that social psychologists' notion of priming offers an empirically grounded and theoretically plausible campaign strategy for treating image and issues as interconnected strategic concerns. Based on both quantitative and historical analysis of John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign, we find that the candidate's policy positions were related to results from his private public opinion polls. Archival and interview evidence suggests that Kennedy deliberately used these popular issues to shape the electorate's standards for evaluating his personal attributes (rather than to win over utility-maximizing voters). We conclude that the study of priming offers one important approach to reintegrating research on candidate strategy and voter behavior.

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