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Seniors’ social image: the representation of ageing in electoral campaigns


This study builds on previous research on ageing representation in relation to common assumptions and stereotypes (Schneider & Ingram 1993; Holladay & Coombs 2004, Kaid & Garner 2004), in order to provide an overview of the ways in which older adults have been addressed and exploited in US political (i.e. electoral) campaigns. Considering campaign ads as multimodal texts, Kress & van Leeuwen’s social semiotic approach (2001) is used to examine how multimodal elements convey seniors’ images. In addition, this analysis draws on legitimation theory (van Leeuwen 2008) to analyse which legitimation tactic is employed to convey meanings through the voice of elderly people. In this paper, a different perspective on the widespread representation of older people in popular culture is offered and the implications related to how their new social image is addressed in media products are considered. By understanding how common assumptions and stereotypes about seniors are challenged in political campaigns, political actors and communicators would be in a better position to tailor their message and eventually their intervention programmes as well as predict the response of the public.