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Vanderbilt Visions

Election 2008

Barack Obama
John McCain
Ralph Nader Bob Barr Cynthia McKinney

The Presidential Election dominates the news, but there's so much information it's hard to know what to look for. 

For this activity you can look at the election in one of two ways:

Option One: "Taking Out The Spin" -- Untruth in Political Advertising.
This option focuses on the two major parties (the Republicans and the Democrats) and their candidates because only they have enough money to run a lot of political ads. You watch and compare candidates' ads and then use Fact Check to learn what is true and false.

Option Two: "Voter's Self-Defense System" -- How Do the Candidates Match Up?
You can look at all five candidates and compare their positions. Minority parties say there's not much difference between the two major parties. Are they right? Are the minor parties--the Libertarians, the Nader independents, and the Greens--all that different?

VUceptor module guide (PDF)

You will need at least one computer with projection screen and Internet connection for this activity. For a more dynamic session, ask five students to bring their laptops so that smaller groups of students can work on different aspects of the topic simultaneously. Alternatively, for this session you can schedule the Electronic Classroom in the main library building by contacting Sue Erickson (2-0155) at least two days before the session, or reserve the Peabody Library Learning Commons by emailing


Option One

"Taking Out the Spin" -- Untruth in Political Advertising

We look at political advertisements and see whether they tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

To find ads, each group should go to the "Search Criteria" section of C-SPAN Politics
The group can leave the candidate field blank to find ads from all candidates and enter their topic in the "search title or description" box.

Groups can also go to these sites to find additional ads:

The viewing of the ads may be guided by these questions:

1. Which of these ads focus on specific issues, on values, or on personalities?

2. Which of these ads make positive statements about the sponsoring candidate or negative statements about other candidates?

3. Which ads do you think are most effective?

4. How accurate are these ads?

To check the accuracy of the ads, go to the Fact Check search site, and enter your one-word topic in the "Search FactCheck Archive" box. You will find an analysis of some of the statements and ads from each candidate.

    Monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major candidates and their supporters in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.

    Check out the "truth-o-meter" and "attack files" tabs. You can choose the "candidates" tab to see the overall truthfulness score for major candidates and their supporters. You can also enter an issue (for example, abortion) in the search box hidden in the bottom right of the page.

Option Two

"Voter's Self-Defense System" -- How Do the Candidates Match Up?

Minority parties say that the two major parties are tweedledee and tweedledum--not much difference between them. Are the minor parties--the Libertarians, the Nader independents, and the Greens--all that different?

Each group looks at one topic and compares the positions of McCain, Obama, and their choice of one minor candidate.

Comparing the positions may be guided by these questions:

1. How specific or general are the candidates' responses?

2. On what issues do the candidates seem to have similar positions? On what issues do they have the most disagreements?

3. Which candidates seem to be left-of-center and which seem to be right-of-center?

4. Do you completely agree with any one candidate? If not, which candidates appeal to you on which issues?


Just for fun!

The Living Room Candidate
Courtesy of the Museum of the Moving Image, this site features presidential campaign ads throughout television history.


Page and module created by Larry Romans and Brian Boling

updated 08/04/2008
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