The Lost Electorate: A Content Analysis of 2022 Senatorial Candidates’ Video Commercials and Their Appeals to the White Working-Class

Name: Kay Wetmore
Major: Communication Studies, Political Science
Advisor: Dr. Denise Bostdorff and Dr. Meg Wrobel

This study explored how the Democratic Party is trying to win back the support of the white working-class. Prior research on the white working-class indicated that politicians have utilized unique appeals to engage this part of the electorate including populist rhetoric, symbolic group appeals, a focus on the economy, and more. This study analyzed campaign tv commercialsfrom two 2022 Democratic Senatorial candidates, Tim Ryan (OH) and John Fetterman (PA). Through a content analysis of five campaign videos per candidate, this study coded for both words and visuals for topics regarding: the economy, dog whistle politics, populist rhetoric, elitism, symbolic group appeals, and policy-oriented appeals. The results indicated that Tim Ryan and John Fetterman mentioned the issue of the economy more than the issue of dog whistlepolitics and both candidates positioned their opponents as a member of “the elite.” The candidates featured elements of populism throughout their campaign commercials, but Ryan onlyused populist words while Fetterman utilized both populist words and visuals. Finally, symbolic group appeals appeared in both candidates’ commercials as well as a few policy-oriented buzzwords, but Ryan mainly featured symbolic group appeal visuals while Fetterman used both words and visuals regarding symbolic group appeals.


Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2023 on April 14, 2023.

4 responses to “The Lost Electorate: A Content Analysis of 2022 Senatorial Candidates’ Video Commercials and Their Appeals to the White Working-Class”

  1. Josh & Eli says:

    Kay…where to begin. No words can describe the magnitude of what you’ve accomplished with this independent study thesis. Through all the highs and lows, you truly showed what scholarly research is all about. Looking forward to see what you accomplish in the future. We are so proud of you.

  2. Garrett says:

    Kay, thank you for your hard work and dedication to this campus and community. I am really in awe of your work and I am proud to say that I knew you, the end!

  3. Prof. Leiby says:

    Congratulations, Kay! It’s so great to see the amazing work you’ve done in your major 🙂

  4. Colleen Beth Wetmore says:

    Great work Kay!
    Interesting Analysis
    The Power of Persuasion

    Proud of you