1956 Eisenhower VS. Stevenson

"Women Voters"


Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate
"Women Voters," Eisenhower, 1956

WOMAN #1: This year there are fifty-four million women eligible to vote - two and a half million more women than men, enough to decide the whole election. And, as November 6 draws near, you women are doing a lot of thinking about a lot of important things. For instance, you're thinking about the cost of living. You want to see living expenses stay at a reasonable level. You want your family budget to be protected against inflation. You're thinking about your family. You want to be as sure as you can that you will all go on living together in our present happiness and prosperity in an America at peace. You are thinking about your children's future. You want them to grow up under the best possible conditions, in terms of schools, health, and general welfare. And because they believe he represents their best hope of achieving these things, the women of America are making their choice for president Dwight D. Eisenhower. But suppose we ask some of them what they think about the coming election.

WOMAN #2: My main reason for voting for Eisenhower is because I believe in his sincerity. I don't feel that he is furthering his own interests but he is furthering the interests of the country and the people.

WOMAN #3: I feel he is a very big man which is needed for that position. And also because he has not been and is not what I consider a politician.

WOMAN #4: I'm interested in Ike and this is my one big reason why I'm interested in Ike.

WOMAN #5: As a woman and future homemaker and mother in America, the type of man that I want to be president is a man that I and my family and my children and those around me can look up to and respect. I think that President Eisenhower is that sort of man.

WOMAN #6: Inflation. We're not going to have that in the next four years if we vote right with Ike.

WOMAN #7: I'm voting for Ike because I feel that he is a God-fearing man, and I think that's essential in any leader, especially the leader of our country.

WOMAN #8: I think that Eisenhower has shown how he feels about the average working man. He's given us the minimum wage law. The changes he's made in Social Security. And I think in another four years he'll do even more than that for us.

WOMAN #9: I'm going to vote for President Eisenhower because he represents the things in which I believe. I like his philosophy of the dignity of man and I also believe that he is a sincere, honest and high caliber person.

WOMAN #10: He has a smile that could prove only one thing, and that is honesty.

WOMAN #1: So much of our future rests with the women of our country. They're the homemakers. The whole family unit revolves around them. Everything that affects the family's welfare affects them first, and everything in the family's life benefits from their influence. They do the family buying, they see that everybody in the family circle is well clothed and well fed, but beyond this, they are the custodian of its values and aspirations for the future. In their hands lies the training of our young people, to whom they pass on the rich heritage of our nation, its love of peace and justice, and its passion for freedom. The women of our country swept Dwight D. Eisenhower into office four years ago. They will probably decide the election this time, and they like Ike. And here's somebody else they like, too — Ike's beloved Mamie, whose smile and modesty and easy, natural charm make her the ideal First Lady. Let's keep our First Lady in the White House for four more years. November 6th vote for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

MALE NARRATOR: The national Citizens for Eisenhower/Nixon have presented this message to all thinking voters regardless of party affiliation.


"Women Voters," Citizens for Eisenhower, 1956

Maker: Young and Rubicam

Video courtesy of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1956/women-voters (accessed July 18, 2024).


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1956 Eisenhower Stevenson Results

For President Eisenhower, the only true emergency of his first term was the heart attack he suffered in September 1955. After his doctor pronounced him fully recovered in February 1956, Eisenhower announced his decision to run for re-election. The Democrats set up a replay of the 1952 contest by nominating Adlai Stevenson. The result was an even greater Republican landslide. Eisenhower was a popular incumbent president who had ended the Korean War. Two world crises helped cement his lead in the final days of the campaign: the Soviet Union invaded Hungary, and Britain, France, and Israel attacked Egypt in an effort to take over the Suez Canal. Eisenhower kept the United States out of both conflicts. As is traditional during a military crisis, American voters rallied behind their president. The events also undermined two of Stevenson’s key positions: the suspension of hydrogen-bomb testing and the elimination of the military draft.

Dwight D. Eisenhower for president
Richard Nixon for vice president

"Peace, Prosperity, and Progress"

Although Eisenhower was the incumbent president, his 1956 ads continued to portray him as an ordinary American. Capitalizing on his enormous popularity, they emphasized Ike’s personality even more than his accomplishments.

To counter Stevenson’s claim that the Democratic party was the party of the average American and the Republican "the party of the few," Eisenhower’s ads offered the testimony of ordinary citizens, whether in the dramatized ad "Taxi Driver and Dog" or the documentary-style "Women Voters." The latter ad was also an acknowledgment that women were crucial to Eisenhower’s 1952 landslide, supporting him by a greater margin than men.

The Eisenhower ads closed with an appeal to "all thinking voters" because a Republican victory was only possible with the support of Democrats and independents, who outnumbered Republicans in the general population. Conversely, Stevenson’s ads urged voters to uphold party loyalty, a common plea by Democratic candidates trailing in the polls.

Adlai Stevenson for president
Estes Kefauver for vice president

"Vote Democratic, the Party for You, and Not Just a Few"

In 1956, Adlai Stevenson was still publicly railing against the expanding role of television in politics. Yet Stevenson knew that he couldn’t compete without television, and the Democratic National Committee tried to hire one of the leading Madison Avenue agencies to handle the campaign. The account was turned down by all of the large firms, who feared offending their big-business Republican clients, and was finally accepted by Norman, Craig and Kummel, an agency with little political experience that ranked 25th in billings.

The main innovation in the commercials of the 1956 campaign was the five-minute spot. Stevenson appeared in a series of such spots, titled "The Man From Libertyville," which were filmed at his home in Libertyville, Illinois. The informal and folksy ads were designed to combat Stevenson’s image as an aloof "egghead." In an attempt to portray the divorced Stevenson as a family man, some of the ads featured his son and daughter-in-law. Meanwhile, the Eisenhower campaign made frequent use of the president's Mamie and large extended family. Emanating from America’s heartland, Stevenson's Libertyville spots were designed to re-establish the Democratic party as the true voice of the American people.

The five-minute spot (actually four minutes and twenty seconds) resulted from cooperation between the networks and the candidates. Hoping to avoid the pre-emption of programs by half-hour speeches, the networks agreed to trim their shows to accommodate five-minute ads. To the candidates’ advantage, the spots were less expensive than half-hour broadcasts, and, as they could be sandwiched between popular programs, were likely to reach more viewers.

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