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US election word of the week: spin room

 © PhotoDiscIn this series we are looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the run-up to the Presidential election in late 2016. This week’s word is spin room.

It has become customary following political debates for staff and supporters of the different candidates to gather in a so-called spin room (sometimes called a spin alley) to talk to journalists about the candidates’ performances. The purpose of the event is to spin your candidate’s performance, presenting it in the best possible light in the hope that this positive message will filter through to the voting public.



The first use of the spin room, according to Wikipedia, was in the 1984 presidential election, when officials from the campaign of Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan attempted to persuade reporters that he had out-performed his Democratic rival Walter Mondale. Reagan went on to win the election and serve a second term as president.

Some have questioned whether the spin room has become outdated in the age of instant reactions on social media, but they have remained an important feature of this election. Following the first presidential debate Republican candidate Donald Trump appeared in the spin room, ignoring the convention that the candidates leave it to their supporters to speak for them; after the second, the Republican campaign used the session to repeat accusations of sexual misdeeds by Bill Clinton, the husband of the Democratic candidate. With one more debate to go before election day on November 8th, it seems the spin room retains its place in US political life, at least for the time being.

Look out for the next post in this series. You can find past posts on the language of American politics here and here, or search for other posts in this series using the tag US politics.

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Liz Potter

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