Why Ideas & Programs Won’t Won Candidates

Monday morning, September 26, 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were in CBS broadcast facility in Chicago to debate in the first televised presidential debate ever. At that time, JFK was still a relatively young and unrecognize senator from Brookline, Massachusetts. At the other side, Richard Nixon was already the vice president of the United States. He was of course way more familiar and experienced with the mechanism of the White House.

After the debate was over, there was a survey made to find out who is the winner of the debate. The results were shocking, most of the people who listened to the debate on radio thought that Nixon won the debate. But most of the people who watched the debate from their television thought JFK won the debate. This is of course very impactful, to the results because, in 1960, they were already 88% American households that had televisions.

So what do you think happened? As I said before, this was the first televised presidential debate ever. So if the debate is televised, there are now 2 main type of communication that they could use to persuade/influence us, Verbal and Non-verbal. Before it was televised, verbal is only the type of communication that used. But now, Non-verbal is also being used by the candidates.

At the debate, JFK is looking confidence, standing with great and straight posture, and speaking straight into the camera. But Nixon was unlucky, at that day, he was just recovering from his flu, and his injured leg, that makes his posture seems unconfidence. So that was one of the deciding factors that make JFK had a really great first impression that leads him to be the 35th president of the United States.

This event just showed us the power of peripheral route of persuasion (Petty and Cacioppo 1981). According to Petty and Cacioppo, there are 2 routes of attitude change. The first one is called central route. Central route is the way to persuade people with information, rationalize, and reasoned argument that will change/convince them. But there is also another route called peripheral route.

Peripheral route is the way to convincing when the audience is not considering the real pros and cons about the person, but considering the cues (positive and negative) related to the person. Such as attractiveness, personal reliability, ethnic, religion, etc. Related to the example I just told you, JFK indirectly persuade the viewer with his charisma and posture.

I’m pretty sure at that time, JFK didn’t really think about using the peripheral route to influence his audiences. But because now we knew that peripheral route is very influential. Many candidates start to become aware and try to develop or even made peripheral route so it could help him/her to win the competition.

How to made peripheral route? There many ways to make one. For example, you see this all the time, you see political candidates supporting the football/basketball team of the city that he/she wanted to be elected. This action will implicitly influence the attractiveness of the person. Because you have something in common or you believe in the same belief, you will prefer A rather than B.

This is one of the reasons why the minority ethnic/religion of a country rarely become the main leader of the country. Peripheral route is of course very related to the in-group-out-group-bias that I explained in the post named How Our Mind Is Defaultly Built For Supporting & Defending Group Racism/Discrimination.

Politicians also like to develop peripheral route to boost the effect. Such as wearing attributes related to the majority religion or the majority ethnic of the country, quoting bibles, etc. Those actions don’t really unethical, it just opens more ways for the group to welcome him/her.

Do you agree with me? What do you think about the example in this post? Tell us in the comment box below!


Elaboration likelihood model. (2017, September 29). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaboration_likelihood_model

History.com Staff. (2010). The Kennedy-Nixon Debates. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/kennedy-nixon-debates

Petty, R. E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Schumann, D. (1983, 09). Central and Peripheral Routes to Advertising Effectiveness: The Moderating Role of Involvement. Journal of Consumer Research, 10(2), 135. doi:10.1086/208954

Webley, K. (2010, September 23). How the Nixon-Kennedy Debate Changed the World. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2021078,00.html

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