Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Obama as Kennedy: The Media's Role in Branding a Politician
by Petrone, Emily, M.A., The American University of Paris (France), 2012, 80; 13871589
Abstract (Summary)

While political campaigns are often analyzed for their marketing and communication strategies, the news media also sanctions political branding and contributes it to the public sphere. This study investigates how modern trends in the news industry encourage political branding of politicians in the American media. A deeper understanding of the use of metaphor, specifically how it resembles branding in the way it structures cognition, adds to the research. The case discussed is the calculated conflation of Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy in the news coverage of the 2008 American presidential election. During that campaign, Obama was consistently compared to the former president and other members of the Kennedy family by Obama supporters, the news media, and consequently the public. The connection was heavily levied by the Obama campaign in its bid for the Democratic nomination, but the comparison’s diffusion in news outlets far eclipsed a standard endorsement or rote political allusion. The belief of Obama devotees was buttressed by a complicit news media, which branded Obama as the candidate with the spirit of Kennedy. This study traces the trajectory of the Obama-Kennedy metaphor in the news media, revealing that the Kennedy frame had significant resonance during primary voting in 2008. The paper analyzes the Kennedy comparison against competing frames for Obama and Hillary Clinton, revealing that the Kennedy frame obviated a difficult discussion of race and gender in news coverage. A metaphorical analysis breaks down the comparison between Obama and Kennedy, showing how the news media designated certain qualities as ‘presidential.’ Then, the news coverage is evaluated for common branding strategies. The study quantitatively and qualitatively researches the questions: how often did the news media compare Obama to Kennedy; what qualities did the metaphor emphasize; how salient were these frames across the news media’s coverage of Obama; and, finally, why does this comparison matter in the context of a presidential campaign?

Indexing (document details)
School: The American University of Paris (France)
School Location: France
Source: MAI 58/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Mass communications
Publication Number: 13871589
ISBN: 978-1-392-03739-3
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