The Role of Media in Presidential Elections

Donald Trump may be running an unconventional Presidential campaign by relying on the media to spread his message. But a new video series by two historians on YouTube aims to show that the media’s outsized role in Presidential elections is anything but new.

The videos, produced by historians Kathryn Cramer Brownell and Jason Steinhauer, and underwritten by Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts, show how Thomas Jefferson, William McKinley, Dwight D. Eisenhower and JFK all manipulated media, and new technologies of their day, to sway popular opinion and get elected. Relying on new research by political and presidential historians, the videos use illustrations and humor to reveal a surprising and enlightening story that provides important context for the 2016 election. The videos even contain footnotes to further resources.

Newspapers and Elections: The Election of 1800 & The Birth of Modern Presidential Politics

This video looks at how Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both used newspapers loyal to their ideas to attack each other and rally voters. Historians now see the election of 1800 as the birth of modern presidential politics.

Public Relations and Elections: William McKinley & The Origins of Professionalized PR

This video examines the significance of President William McKinley in ushering in the use of photography, film and modern PR techniques to win the White House and dictate public opinion. McKinley introduced the precursor to the modern-day press release.

Television and Elections: Eisenhower, JFK & The Makings of the Celebrity President

This video shows how television has been integral to presidential politics since the 1950s. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first candidate to use television to appeal directly to voters. This helped him get elected, and was a strategy closely replicated by President John F. Kennedy.