The effect of color in American political campaigns
W. Gary Howard (University of West Florida), 1984, 12(2), 203–212

The attention of many people is this month drawn to the United States, where presidential campaigns are coming to a close, and the presidential election will take place. November 6 will see the result of many months – even years – of campaigning for the candidates. Along the way, much time and many resources have no doubt been dedicated to making those campaigns appeal to the American people. Here at SBP Journal, our focus on individual and societal behavior makes for some interest insights into political campaigning; one of which is considered in the article by Dr Howard of the University of West Florida. This article is taken from early in our archives and addresses one small facet of marketing political candidates to the general population, color. That is, how are political messages made the most appealing and memorable to the public in their use of color?

Dr Howard used a sample of 273 men and women to see what impact color would have on campaign literature. Each participant viewed 30 posters, each with a different color combination, but the same text and layout. Participants answered questions about their preference of color combination, as well as their opinions on the legibility of the poster colors. The most memorable and preferred color combination was black on yellow, whereas the least preferred were black on blue or green on red. Interestingly, there was no difference found between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in terms of preferred color combinations.

As mentioned in the article, “millions of dollars are spent in an effort to convince the American public that particular candidates are the “right” people to be the elected leaders and decision makers”. Using social psychology to understand how this can be done more effectively may well be a practical endeavor. This study offers one example of that; a small insight into the political behavior of the American public. This month, there will be more to see, analyze, and review of that political behavior when the results of the presidential election are announced.

We welcome your research into aspects of political behavior as submissions to SBP Journal! Please submit through our website,

Alex Cheyne |
 Managing Editor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal