A Functional Analysis of the 1988 Bush-Dukakis Presidential Debates
This study applies the Functional Theory of Political Campaign Discourse to the 1988 presidential debates between George Bush and Michael Dukakis. It challenges the notion that this campaign was mostly negative: The candidates relied more heavily on acclaims (59%) than on attacks (33%) or defenses (8%). The incumbent party candidate, Bush, devoted more discourse to acclaiming (62%) than the challenger (56%). The challenger attacked more (39%) than the incumbent (25%), which refutes the idea that Bush was more aggressive. Bush, who was subjected to more attacks, had more defenses (12% to 5%). Despite the belief that modern campaigns are devoid of substance, these debates stressed policy about twice as much as character.
Benoit, William L., and LeAnn M. Brazeal. "A functional analysis of the 1988 Bush-Dukakis presidential debates." Argumentation and Advocacy 38, no. 4 (2002): 219-233.
Argumentation and Advocacy