Influence of Communication Modalities on Voters' Perceptions of Candidates During Presidential Primary Campaigns


  • The authors appreciate the contributions of Barry Beck, Michele Bendix, Julia Burggraaf, Michael Dearring, Margo Flagg-Olson, Kristine Helmbrecht, Molly Johnson, Kim Kelsey, Andrea Kloster, Erin Kock, Michael LeMay, Chris Moorhead, Kirsten Osterberg, Mark Thorson, and Denise Waltman for their assistance in administering this study. This investigation was supported by a grant from the Augustana College Research and Artists' Fund.


This study examines the relative influence of six communication modalities on voters' perceptions of candidates during contested presidential primary campaigns with less well-known candidates. The investigation panels 113 Democratic and Independent voters of a primary state during the 1992 primary season. Prospective voters were contacted in the “distant phase,” that is, before the campaign shifted its full attention to the voters of that state; and in the “localized phase,” immediately following an intense campaign leading up to this state's primary election. Results indicate that interpersonal communication dominates all other communication modalities in influencing voters' perceptions of candidates during the distant phase of primaries, and its effect persists into the localized phase. In addition, televised spot advertising, and to a lesser degree, television news, exert the most impact on voters' perceptions during the localized phase of the primary campaign.