Date of Project


Document Type

Honors Thesis

School Name

College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Major Advisor

Dr. Aaron Hoffman


This thesis will aim to investigate the topics of critical elections and why we view them as such. It aims to closely examine two key elections, the 1964 election won by a Democrat, and the 1980 election won by a Republican, researching both the historical context of these elections that may have led them to become critical, and whether the way in which the elections were covered may provide any insight. To do this the editorial section of three newspapers, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and LA Times, will be examined to see if rhetoric varied at all between different sources about the election. The political editorials leading up to the elections will be analyzed, and through doing this it is seeking to learn whether the people of the time knew the potential impact of these elections or not. Some of the goals of this thesis are to investigate whether we can readily predict the historical impact of an event in the moment and seeks to find some information on why media assigns so much extreme rhetoric to elections. The expected result is to see that the newspaper editorials examined have some sort of indication that the upcoming election will be a critical one. After examining the editorials, it seems that the newspaper coverage of the campaigns does have some aspects in common. Namely, there is a large focus on foreign policy as well as a general air of political dissatisfaction throughout the editorials. It does seem that there are some indicators and consistencies when it comes to seeing if an election is critical in the moment, but to gain an even better understanding, examining the editorials of more elections may be necessary.