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Human Communication


Pacific and Asian Communication Association

Publication Date



Peterson’s (1995) theory of Functional Federalism recognizes that political offices at different levels of government have different responsibilities, so that senators are more likely to emphasize national issues than governors. This theory was tested and extended. First, 1651 political television spots from 2002 and 2004 gubernatorial, US Senate, and US House races were subjected to computer content analysis. As predicted, gubernatorial spots emphasized local issues (54%) more than national ones (46%) whereas House and Senate spots stressed national issues (63%, 64%) over local ones (37%, 36%). Second, we extended Functional Federalism by arguing that presidential TV spots should stress national issues even more than spots for the Senate and House. Then 687 presidential television spots (1980-2004) and 526 congressional spots (1980-2002) were also content analyzed. Both sets of ads emphasized national issues more than local issues; however, presidential ads stressed national issues (66%) even more than congressional ads (56%). These data support and extend the theory of functional federalism.



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