Eisenhower Answers America: The First Political Advertisements on American TV (1952)

Going into the 1952 presidential election, the Democrats had held the White House for nearly twenty years. FDR took office in 1933, beginning the first of twelve years in office. Then Harry S. Truman led the nation for nearly another eight years. During that time, America endured a lot. War, economic depression, and more war — some hot, some cold. By the time the 1950s rolled around, Americans were tired and ready for a change.

In the 1952 election, we find Adlai Stevenson, the reluctant Democratic candidate, squaring off against Dwight D. Eisenhower, the war hero who had led American troops to victory in Europe, instantly becoming the “most admired living American” (according to opinion polls). Eisenhower, it turns out, knew how to win elections as well as wars. In ’52, Ike aired the first ad campaigns on television. Called Eisenhower Answers America, the ads featured “everyday” Americans asking questions about the issues of the day — the war in Korea, inflation, high taxes, etc. PBS has a well-researched introduction to this innovation in American politics, while the nicely-curated web site, The Living Room Candidate, offers a rich collection of campaign commercials aired between 1952 and 2008.

You can watch three ads from Eisenhower Answers America above and below.

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