The Impact of McCain's Split Screen Personality



The chatter among pundits and journalists this post-debate morning has focused in part on John McCain's body language and split-screen demeanor. There was a clear aggressiveness and emotion to McCain's performance last night, much of it signaled not just when he was speaking, but also in split-screen reactions to Barack Obama's "eloquence."

Past research on split-screen effects in the 2004 election shows that viewer partisanship is likely to guide reactions to candidate demeanor, with Republicans seeing McCain's behavior as that of a strong leader justly outraged at Obama's attacks and sophistry, and Democrats and Independents likely turned off by the GOP nominee's manner.

Already, as a strategic tool, the Obama campaign has put together a TV ad (above) using McCain's body language and countenance against him, merging his split-screen personality with a narrative once again connecting McCain to the policies of President Bush. And on YouTube, popular music montages have appeared poking fun at McCain's debate reactions (below).


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