Types of Political Communication

Categories of Political Communication:


Legitimate political commercials usually are clearly identified with a particular candidate or cause, i.e., you'll hear "Vote for Joe Blow on election day."

If you can't figure out who paid for something, that's usually a signal to listen more closely. Take detailed notes, and listen in particular for any "paid for by X" line.

If you're tuned in for a long stretch of time, try and remember how many times you hear a particular commercial. Note the type of music used, and any relevant sound effects.

Make certain you note the call letters, station number, and time of day you heard the ad.

Often the most "out there" radio ads run on specialty radio stations that target a particular type of listener.

Direct Mail

Political direct mail can come from a candidate, a campaign committee, an advocacy group you've heard of, or one you haven't.

Make sure you save the contents of envelopes, but also the envelopes themselves, since they sometimes contain clues about where the letter came from, as well as some of the most questionable rhetoric.


A tough one, because unless you have the skills of a hacker, it's often hard to figure out where they come from. Read 'em and see if you can figure out who sent them. If you can't, then they probably don't want you to know who sent them. Which means that we DO want you to send them to us!


Political folks still aren't sure about how to make the Internet work for them. They're excited, though, because most voters now have access to the web, and communicating that way is relatively cheap

Candidates have their own websites, as do advocacy groups, campaign committees, political action committees, and independent so-called "527" groups.

Rules about identifying the site owners/financial backers are virtually nonexistent, so websites often don't make clear their owners' identities, and it's sometimes very difficult to tell the provenance of a particular page.

If you see a questionable pop-up ad or website, and don't know how to capture it, write down the URL (web address) that you were on when the ad or page appeared, and copy down as much of the content as you can.

Because web material can and does change, always try to note the time of day and date you saw the material.


Because of the attention that "push polling" has gotten in the last two presidential elections, a great deal of confusion has been created in the minds of the media and the public about what a "push poll" is, and how it differs from other types of political phone calls.

The glossary below is meant to differentiate the various types of calls.

In all categories, the words spoken by the caller can be positive or negative (or both); and true or false (or both). The point is to ferret out "bad" calls, but it is also important to be clear about what to label the type of call you get.

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