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Candidate-Issue Positioning in the Context of Presidential Debates

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This paper presents an analysis of three presidential candidates, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, who participated in the 1992 presidential debates. The relationships among the three candidates and between each candidate and the issues were examined using semantic network analysis. The results indicate a two-against-one strategy that was issue specific. The candidates teamed up in different pairs, depending on the topic at hand. The results also show the issues that the candidates emphasized most. Specifically, Clinton and Perot had more focused communication consistent with their respective campaign themes of domestic and financial concerns, while Bush did not emphasize any one particular theme. The implications of these differences are discussed, as are the theoretical and practical implications for debater tactics and the strategic use of language for emphasizing political platforms.

Keywords: Presidential debates; debater tactics; language use; semantic network analysis; two-against-one strategy

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2003


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