Media, Advertising, and the 1984 Presidential Election:

Manufacturing Ronald Reagan's Image

Campaign Button

by Andrew Van Alstyne


The 1984 presidential election represented a landmark point in the United States. During his first administration, Ronald Reagan implemented policies that cut social programs and negatively effected many Americans. Because a majority of Americans opposed Reagan's policies, the Democratic Party believed it had a legitimate shot of defeating Reagan. However, Reagan understood the Americans' confidence in the nation was severely undermined because of domestic and foreign crises during the 1960s and 1970s. Instead of defending his unpopular policies, Reagan embarked upon a massive image oriented campaign, the central mission of which was to reassure Americans that their country had returned to its position as leader of the free world. Although the facts disputed Reagan's claim, the American people embraced the message they most wanted to hear. As a result of this, Walter Mondale's focus upon rationality and issues was an enormous failure. In the election, Reagan won by the largest electoral margin in US history. This paper studies the Reagan campaign's use of media, in the form of paid advertising and news coverage. This is then contrasted with Mondale's approach, in order to demonstrate how different the campaigns truly were.

Table of Contents

Introduction Historical Context: Domestic Affairs Historical Context: Foreign Affairs
The 1980 Presidential Election Reagan's First Term "Teflon" Ron
The 1984 Presidential Primaries The Reagan Campaign Reagan's Paid Political Advertisements
Reagan's Paid Political Advertisements, Page Two Reagan's Paid Political Advertisements, Page Three Reagan on the News
Reagan's Message Mondale's Campaign Strategies Mondale's Use of Media
Conclusion Sources and Links About the Author