A Functional Analysis of Televised U.S. Senate and Gubernatorial Campaign Debates

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senate, gubernatorial, debates, functions, topics, incumbency, political party


This study extended previous research on the Functional Theory of Political Campaign Discourse to investigate the nature of 21 U.S. Senate campaign debates and 15 gubernatorial debates from 1994 to 2006. Acclaims were more common than attacks or defenses in Senate (56%, 30%, 14%) and gubernatorial (68%, 30%, 2%) debates. Challengers attacked more and acclaimed less than incumbents in both groups of debates. Senate and gubernatorial incumbents used past deeds much more to acclaim than attack; challengers were prone to use past deeds to attack more than acclaim. There was no consistent effect of political party on functions of debates. The candidates focused more attention on policy than character in Senate (70%, 30%) and gubernatorial debates (73%, 27%). There was no difference in topics stressed by Democrats and Republicans, or incumbents and challengers, in either set of debates. These results are generally consistent with the findings from prior analyses of presidential debates

Recommended Citation

Benoit, William L., LeAnn M. Brazeal, and David Airne. "A functional analysis of televised US Senate and gubernatorial campaign debates." Argumentation and Advocacy 44, no. 2 (2007): 75-89.

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