A comparative study of the U.S. presidential primary campaigns of the Kennedy brothers (1960, 1968 and 1980)

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis is concerned with a study of American presidential nomination politics, specifically a comparative study of the three presidential nomination campaigns of the Kennedy brothers. John Kennedy ran for the presidency in 1960, Robert in 1968 and Edward in 1980. The key questions explored here are; the planning and strategy of the three campaigns; the extent to which the rules and procedures of the Democratic Party helped or hindered these campaigns; the relevance of lessons learned in the early campaigns to later races; and the legacy left to future candidates by the Kennedy approach.
The thesis consists primarily of three historical chapters dealing with each Kennedy brother’s campaign. These are analysed in a later chapter and conclusions are drawn. The literature review serves to set the analysis in the context of the Democratic Party’s history and the development of its approach to pre-convention presidential politics. A further chapter details the methodology used and justifies the qualitative nature of the study.
While the main focus is on the Kennedy campaigns, other important contests such as the first post-reform races in 1972 and 1976 are considered as is the important role played by the media in presidential politics. A particular focus of the sections on 1968 and 1980 is the role of the incumbent and how incumbency power can be used.
The research has drawn on public records of the time and subsequent academic literature. Extensive use has been made of the Kennedy Presidential Library JFK and RFK oral history programmes and the Edward Kennedy Oral History Project run by the Miller Institute at the University of Virginia. A wide variety of papers available in the JFK Presidential Library was also consulted.
An early search of existing literature revealed that while extensive scholarly work exists for the three campaigns, particularly 1960 and 1968, there is no direct comparison of all three or of their lessons for the present day. What follows therefore is an original study in the field of U.S. Presidential politics which contributes to our understanding of what makes a successful campaign.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Leith, Murray, Supervisor
  • Hamilton, Robert, Supervisor, External person
Award date16 Jun 2016
Place of PublicationPaisley
Publication statusPublished - 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'A comparative study of the U.S. presidential primary campaigns of the Kennedy brothers (1960, 1968 and 1980)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this