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Vote for Me!! Political Campaign Propaganda

The year leading up to a presidential election is full of political advertisements and media coverage of political scandals. Students who are not familiar with specific propaganda techniques may form opinions on political issues and candidates without fully understanding the truth behind the advertisements. An informed citizen is able to think critically about things they see in the media to separate fact from fiction. This skill needs to be taught in the classroom. The saturation of politics and political advertisements in the media will make this coming year an ideal time to study political campaigns and advertising propaganda.

Topics in this theme can include how a political campaign works, strategies people use to persuade others, how to recognize different propaganda techniques in different forms of media, and how special interest groups and money shape the messages in political campaigns. There are resources on all of these topics on the Gateway, including stand-alone lessons, units, simulations, and projects. The following resources will help you and your students are better-informed citizens as the political advertisements swing into full gear.

This four-week project from USA Today is an excellent example of project-based learning that allows students to see the campaign process from start to finish. In this unit, students research a candidate, write a campaign speech and press release, create an advertising campaign, and evaluate their efforts. If you like these ideas but are short on time, you might be interested in Scholastic’s Winning Campaigns, a stand-alone lesson created for the 2008 election. This lesson also requires students to create campaign posters using propaganda techniques. These activities are easily adapted to the current election.

For teachers looking to study propaganda techniques with less of a focus on the details of a political campaign, the following resources might be useful. It’s important for students to understand that not everything they see or hear is true. In one unit, Whose Voice Guides your Choice?, students examine advertisements in all different forms of media to see how they influence public opinion. ReadWriteThink’s Propaganda Techniques in Literature and Online looks at propaganda techniques used in the written word. Students compare propaganda in online advertisements with other literature. This is a neat way for them to see that propaganda is not a new phenomenon.

Money plays a huge role in political campaigns. To help older students understand this connection, try this Campaign Finance Simulation and NOW – Campaign Finance. Both resources require students to look at the cost of campaigns and the sources of all that money to see how campaign finance can affect a politician’s platform.

You will find more media literacy resources in last year’s columns about advertising. You will find Joann’s Picks, “Selling It” here, and Peggy’s Corner, “THINK Before you Buy: Media Literacy” here.

Happy reading! Remember to follow our Facebook and Twitter pages to get even more resource suggestions. This week’s columns are also featured in the We Are Teachers 2012 Election Toolkit. This toolkit has more suggestions for incorporating the election into your teaching.

Joann's companion column: 


Nich's picture

Political Campaign Propaganda

To the organizers of this project, excellent idea. Students really need to be informed and educated in this matter for them to see a glimpse of the right campaign process. By this they will learn to apply them in their own campaigns. It will also help them understand the nature of political campaigns for them to decide wisely who to vote when elections come. Great read!