n Critical Arts : A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies - The integration of emotional and cognitive messages in election campaigns : a South African case study

Volume 19, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 0256-0046



A substantial amount of political communication research in the Western world has focused on the question of whether images instead of issues are emphasised in election campaign messages. The underlying concern is that voters need information in order to make informed voting decisions. In this article the argument is that, if this is a concern in well-established democracies, it should be an even bigger concern in a young democracy. <br>This article posits that image and issue messages are interrelated, and that both have to be addressed in elections. To explore this argument the concept of images is defined more broadly. In literature on campaigns in the United States of America (US), image is often equated with the personal characteristics of the candidate. Here the argument is that 'image' and 'issues' are interrelated because issues could contribute to the image of the party. Against this background, the authors, refer to emotional and cognitive messages. They assume that typical election issues (emotional messages) should be used to attract voters' attention. However, this is not enough since these issues should be explained in greater detail and contextualised within a young democracy. <br>The research question for this article is thus: to what extent were emotional and cognitive messages integrated during the 1999 general elections in the North - West Province of South Africa. An extensive qualitative analysis of all relevant material (i.e., party manifestos, newspaper advertisements, radio advertisements, pamphlets, posters and Websites) indicates that South African political parties placed much less emphasis on the 'image' of the party or its leader than happens in a mature democracy such as that of the US. This did not imply that the substance of the message was emphasised adequately, because the cognitive and emo- tional campaign messages were not fully integrated. While the focus was on typical election issues, they were not fully explained and contextualised.

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