Presentation Title

From Banjos to Dog Whistles: The Growing Presence of Coded Political Messages in Country Music, 1950-2010

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

School

School of Sciences and Social Sciences

Discipline

Political Science

Mentor

William Bendix

Date & Time

April 9th at 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Location

David F. Putnam Science Center, Room 282

Abstract

Theorists assert that since the late 1960s, conservative politicians have used coded appeals—or “dog whistle” messages—to attract rural white voters. These messages have reflected, among other themes, anti-intellectual values and racially discriminatory attitudes. Those theorists assert that this strategy has guaranteed the Republican Party strong support among rural whites. But what has been the broader impact of this messaging campaign? Do we now see these coded political appeals used in nonpolitical contexts? To track the influence and broader cultural pervasiveness of Republican appeals, I have conducted a content analysis of all top-40 Country Music songs from 1950 to 2010. As a genre, country music has long used populist messages to attract working-class whites. I hypothesize that as conservative political elites increasingly used coded appeals, country songs increasingly contained lyrics with parallel sentiments. This study will test that hypothesis and thus the validity of assertions about “dog whistle” messaging.

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Apr 9th, 11:30 AM

From Banjos to Dog Whistles: The Growing Presence of Coded Political Messages in Country Music, 1950-2010

David F. Putnam Science Center, Room 282

Theorists assert that since the late 1960s, conservative politicians have used coded appeals—or “dog whistle” messages—to attract rural white voters. These messages have reflected, among other themes, anti-intellectual values and racially discriminatory attitudes. Those theorists assert that this strategy has guaranteed the Republican Party strong support among rural whites. But what has been the broader impact of this messaging campaign? Do we now see these coded political appeals used in nonpolitical contexts? To track the influence and broader cultural pervasiveness of Republican appeals, I have conducted a content analysis of all top-40 Country Music songs from 1950 to 2010. As a genre, country music has long used populist messages to attract working-class whites. I hypothesize that as conservative political elites increasingly used coded appeals, country songs increasingly contained lyrics with parallel sentiments. This study will test that hypothesis and thus the validity of assertions about “dog whistle” messaging.