Title

Cloned Politicians? A Comparative Analysis of the Political Campaign Messages of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair

Date of Award

1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Mazharul Haque

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

The notion that two politicians are alike is sometimes taken for granted by commentators on political affairs such that it makes it incumbent on scholars to prove the worth of such general assumptions. This study compared the campaign messages of two world leaders using semiological and narrative theories. What was achieved in this study was the questioning of the validity of the assumption that Tony Blair's political messages and style of delivery were similar to those of Bill Clinton. This was accomplished by transcribing the campaign video tapes of the 1996 and 1997 national elections in the United States and Britain respectively, using qualitative research methods. Theoretical framework was based on semiological, narrative/ideological theories. This approach enabled the ease of meaningful interpretation devoid of arithmetic calculations popular with the quantitative research methods school. It was observed that rather than one politician wholly adopting or copying the campaign styles of the other; it was more of a convergence of ideological themes fueled by the increasing reliance of politicians on television for political campaigns. Of course, national adaptations, necessitated by each country's media and political systems were also observed. For instance, Norris and Kalb (1997) noticed that the British media were completely sheltered from the influence of the American media. This was accomplished by sticking to the tradition of public service coverage of issues rather than the use of negative 30-second commercials common in America. Using the German elections, where similar campaign messages were identified between Shroeder and Blair as a close example, cross-similarities between campaign styles of two politicians may continue to feature in international politics. With this trend in mind, it is safe to assume that the increasing reliance on television for political information dissemination, and the erosion of hard-lined extreme political ideologies may have induced politicians to tend toward a universal pattern of political campaign communication.