Did Kennedy Win the 1960 Election Because of the Medium of Television?

September 27, 2010  
Filed under Celebrity, Top Story

Okay, picture this, 77 million Americans simultaneously staring at a little box, known as a television set, (on September 26, 1960). It was the first Kennedy/Nixon debate. Something changed that day. Television broadcasts were the social media of its day. I didn`t miss it! I liked to lay on the floor, as close as I could get near to the black and white tube in my family living room, that happened to be in Houston, Texas in 1960.

Lots of good documentation on the 50th anniversary of the 1960 presidential debates. Time Magazine and the Kansas City Star both have good pieces that you will want to take a careful look at. And don`t forget the 8 minute clip of the debates on YouTube, that I will link for you right here. By 1960 88 % of households had television sets, so this was the point in time when politicians had to pay attention to this new medium.

In his opening statement, John Kennedy contrasts the achievements of the Democratic Party with that of the Republican party, and says he`s carrying on the traditions of Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Harry Truman, by granting Federal aid in education and helping the aged. It`s as if the same argument that was fought 50 years ago, is still before us today.

After the first debate, the crowds at Kennedy` rallies greatly increased. It`s often been postulated that JFK won the election in the first debate. This can`t be proved, but seems to be the case. Nixon spent the rest of his life respecting and worshipping the power of TV. Just since he looked somewhat sickly for the Tube that day, and JFK looked robust, confidant, even radiant, it cost him the election, and he never forgot the lesson he learned from this defining moment.


One Response to “Did Kennedy Win the 1960 Election Because of the Medium of Television?”

  1. Steve White on September 27th, 2010 5:44 pm

    Polls later showed that people that listened to the debate on radio felt that Nixon won and those that watched on TV thought Kennedy won. By this time many more people were watching on TV than listening on radio so the general perception was that Kennedy won the debate. Thus proving that Marshall McCluhan was right – “the medium is the message.”

Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!