Campaign Literature Project

An Analysis of Campaign Literature in U.S. Elections, started 1989

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION, Eric M. Appleman's nonpartisan effort to educate citizens about the political process, is best known for its work on presidential campaigns (see and the links below). My longest running endeavor is the Campaign Literature Project, a library of campaign literature from all U.S. Senate and gubernatorial general election campaigns and selected U.S. House races going back to 1989.  The project grew out of my studies at The George Washington University, where I graduated from with a B.A. in Political Communication.

If I were to walk into your campaign headquarters, what would I find in the way of printed literature?  I'm looking for your "best stuff," that is the standard brochures, leaflets, pamphlets, palm cards, plans, comparison pieces and even recipe cards and football schedules that your campaign distributes to voters in the general election campaign.

The goal of the Campaign Literature Project is to conduct an academic and historic analysis of these materials across election cycles. The project looks at themes and issues highlighted and key words (for example "independent" or "values") as well as the photographs, images and graphics used (everything from are family shots or formal head shots used, to do the images include flags or other symbols, to what colors are the logos?) on basic literature pieces.  The project encompasses materials from Democrats, Republicans, third party and independent candidates; it is not a partisan endeavor.  The ultimate research goal is to see how campaign literature is evolving and if there are differences from cycle to cycle.

And there are differences.  Since this project began in 1989 much has changed in campaign communications; most obviously web sites now provide an easy way for citizens to find out about campaigns.  The ascendence of the web has led to small and large changes in campaign literature.  For example, campaigns now include the website address on lit. pieces, and tri-fold brochures have given way more and more to palm cards.  This cycle many campaigns have added Facebook and Twitter logos to their lit. pieces.  In terms of major themes and issues, each cycle is different.  For example, immediately following 9/11, national security was a major concern; this cycle jobs and the economy are key themes. 

Even in this Internet era, the core pieces of campaign literature handed out to voters during canvasses and at events are still important, and they are the focus of this project. 

If you have any questions whatsoever, please call (202 462-0145) or e-mail (

Attn: Eric M. Appleman
P.O. Box 19007
Washington, DC  20036-9007.

                                                                                Thank you for your assistance and good luck on November 6!

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: Independent Work in Political Communications




Please send examples of your basic general election literature, your "best stuff"—brochures, flyers, palm cards—if possible two (2) of each, via U.S. Mail in a flat envelope.  If you could include a couple of lapel stickers that would also be helpful, but the main focus is the literature.