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Classroom Resources: Evaluating and fact-checking campaign advertisements

This lesson explores the role of media in an election and how to parse facts from misinformation in political advertising.


Key concepts/standards

  • Communicate and defend one’s own beliefs, feelings, and convictions 
  • Understand the persuasive power of media 
  • Develop technical skills in video creation, graphic design 
  • Develop critical eye toward persuasive messaging in media 
  • Rhetorical skills, recognizing good and bad arguments 

Discussion questions

What are some different types of political advertisements?

What are some differences between commercial advertisements and political advertisements? What are some similarities?

What is a target audience?

What makes a persuasive campaign advertisement?

Does a political ad need to be factually true to persuade voters?

What are some ways candidates or other groups can manipulate voters through advertisements?

How do you know if an advertisement is manipulating you?

How do you think the popularity of shorter-form content like TikTok and Instagram Reels will change the nature of political advertising? 


Have students work individually or in groups to create a campaign advertisement for a candidate (of their choice or your choice). Citizens Count's candidate and elected official profiles provide ample information about state and federal officeholders. The ad format can be video, audio, or social media (combination of image and text). When creating the ad, have students answer the following questions:

  • Who is the advertisement’s target audience? 
  • What is the key message of the advertisement? 
  • What are some key images, sounds, and words in the advertisement? 
  • What are the sources of information for the advertisement?  

Afterwards, you can have students evaluate or fact-check each other’s advertisements for homework. For each advertisement, students can answer the following questions:

Evaluating an advertisement: 

  • What type of political advertisement is this? 
  • What is the key message of the advertisement? 
  • Do you believe this advertisement is persuasive or not? Why?

Fact-checking an advertisement: 

  • What are some “facts” or statements in this advertisement that you can check? 
  • Does the advertisement list any sources? 
  • Are those sources trustworthy? Why or why not? 
  • Are there any other/independent sources that can verify this advertisement’s “facts”? 


If you want to avoid controversy in the classroom, this activity works well with lesser-known candidates and/or state-level candidates.

The Museum of the Moving Image has an extensive library of campaign ads, as well as other robust lesson plans related to historical campaign ads. Here is an example.

This page from C-SPAN also offers an assortment of notable historical ads that you can use in the classroom.

If you want to take a deep dive on current social media advertisements, check out Meta’s advertisement library.

If you want to spend more time on the (potentially dark) art of persuasion, consider including this article about the psychology behind political advertisements.

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