Mitchell S. McKinney

Dr. Mitchell S. McKinney
Professor Emeritus

Dr. Mitchell S. McKinney is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Communication. His research interests include presidential debates, political campaigns, civic engagement, media and politics, and presidential rhetoric. McKinney is the co-author/editor of 8 books, including An Unprecedented Election: Media, Communication, and the Electorate in the 2016 Campaign (with Wanrer, Bystrom & Banwart); Political Socialization in a Media Saturated World (with Thorson & Shah); alieNATION: The Divide and Conquer Election of 2012 (with Bystrom, Tedesco & Banwart); Communication in the 2008 U.S. Election: Digital Natives Elect a President (with Banwart); Communicating Politics: Engaging the Public in Democratic Life (with Kaid, Bystrom & Carlin); The Millennium Election: Communication in the 2000 Campaign (with Kaid, Tedesco & Bystrom); Civic Dialogue in the 1996 Presidential Campaign (with Kaid & Tedesco); and The 1992 Presidential Debates in Focus (with Carlin). His research also has appeared in major communication, journalism, and interdisciplinary journals, including Journal of CommunicationCommunication MonographsJournalism StudiesElectronic News, Communication StudiesAmerican Behavioral ScientistArgumentation and AdvocacySocial Science Computer Review, and Journal of Constructivist Psychology.

Dr. McKinney has combined practical political experience with his training as a political communication scholar, having served as a staff member in the U.S. Senate and at the White House. He has served as a consultant to C-SPAN and the U.S. Commission on Presidential Debates, advising the Commission on how debates might be structured in order to better educate voters. He also served as an adviser for the Korean government working with election officials in Seoul to plan the 2002 televised Korean presidential debates. Dr. McKinney provides regular expert political commentary for such national media as The New York TimesThe Washington PostUSA Today, CNN and NPR.

In 2006-07, McKinney served as Director of Academic Affairs for the National Communication Association (NCA) in Washington, DC where he was responsible for the association's academic programming and initiatives in the areas of scholarship, research and teaching. He is the founding Chair of the Central States Communication Association's Political Communication Interest Group, and he has also served as Chair of NCA's Political Communication Division. In 2012-13, Dr. McKinney was President of the Central States Communication Association.

Dr. McKinney has received awards from the University of Missouri for his research, teaching, graduate mentoring and service, including the Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2009, the University of Missouri’s Graduate Faculty Mentor Award in 2011, the Outstanding Director of Graduate Studies Award from the MU Graduate School in 2014, and the Faculty-Alumni Award from the Mizzou Alumni Association in 2014. From the National Communication Association’s Political Communication Division, Dr. McKinney was awarded the Michael Pfau Outstanding Research Award in 2014. He also received the Daniel Rohrer Memorial Outstanding Research Award from the American Forensic Association. In 2012-13, McKinney served as a Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute Research Fellow, and he holds a courtesy faculty appointment with the Missouri School of Journalism. Dr. McKinney is the founder and Director of MU’s Political Communication Institute (, he was Chair of the Department of Communication from 2014 – 2016, and he served as Faculty Fellow for Academic Affairs in the Office of the Provost at MU from 2016 – 2019.


Research Interests

Presidential debates

Political campaigns

Media and politics

Civic engagement
Presidential rhetoric

Select Publications

Warner, B. R., McKinney, M. S., Bramlett, J. C., Jennings, F. J., & Funk, M. E. (2020). Reconsidering partisanship as a constraint on the persuasive effects of debates. Communication Monographs.

Houston, J. B., McKinney, M. S., Thorson, E., Hawthorne, J., Wolfgang, D., & Swasy, A. (2019). The twitterization of journalism: User perceptions of news tweets. Journalism.

Warner, B. R., Galarza, R., Coker, C. R., Tschirhart, P., Hoeun, S., Jennings, F.J., & McKinney, M. S. (2019). Comic agonism in the 2016 campaign: A study on Iowa caucus rallies. American Behavioral Scientist, 63(7), 836-855.

Jennings, F. J., McKinney, M. S., & Greenwood, M. M. (2019). Preaching to the choir: Partisan social identity and presidential debate social watching. In E. Hinck (Ed.), Presidential debates in a changing media environment. Westport, CT: Praeger.

McKinney, M. S. (2018). Political campaign debates in the 2016 elections: Advancing campaign debate scholarship. Argumentation and Advocacy, 54, 72-75.

Bramlett, J. C., McKinney, M. S., & Warner, B. R. (2018). Processing the political: Presidential primary debate ‘live-tweeting’ as information processing. In B. R. Warner, D. G. Bystrom, M. S. McKinney, & M. C. Banwart (Eds.), An unprecedented election: Media, communication, and the electorate in the 2016 campaign (pp. 169-188). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Warner, B. R., Bystrom, D. G., McKinney, M. S., Banwart, M. C. (Eds.). (2017). An unprecedented election: Media, communication, and the electorate in the 2016 campaign. New York: Praeger.

Jennings, F. J., Coker, C. R., McKinney, M. S., & Warner, B. R. (2017). Tweeting presidential primary debates: Debate processing through motivated Twitter instruction. American Behavioral Scientist, 61(4), 455-474.

Jennings, F. J., Greenwood, M. M., & McKinney, M. S. (2017). I’m with her: The impact of gender identification on assessments of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump’s presidential debate performance. In R. E. Denton (Ed.), Studies of communication in the 2016 presidential campaign. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

McKinney, M. S., & Spialek, M. L. (2017). Political debates. In M. Allen (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Thorson, E., McKinney, M. S., & Shah, D. (Eds.). (2016). Political socialization in a media saturated world. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Houston, J. B., & McKinney, M. S. (2016). Young citizens’ use of digital and traditional political information. In E. Thorson, M. S. McKinney, & D. Shah (Eds.), Political socialization in a media saturated world. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Jahng, M., McKinney, M. S., & Thorson, E. (2016). Peer influence in adolescent political socialization: Deliberative democracy inside and outside the classroom. In E. Thorson, M. S. McKinney, & D. Shah (Eds.), Political socialization in a media saturated world. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Thorson, E., Jahng, M., McKinney, M. (2016). Political knowledge and participation in teens during low and high political interest periods of a presidential election. In E. Thorson, M. S. McKinney, & D. Shah (Eds.), Political socialization in a media saturated world. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Warner, B. R., & McKinney, M. S. (2016). Debating the presidency. Spectra, 52, 34-39.

Thorson, E., McKinney, M. S., & Shah, D. (2016). Theorizing political socialization in a media saturated world. In E. Thorson, M. S. McKinney, & D. Shah (Eds.), Political socialization in a media saturated world. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

McKinney, M. S., & Bolton, J. (2016). Youth and elections in American campaigns. In W. G. Benoit (Ed.), Handbook of political campaigning in the United States. New York: Praeger.

Thorson, E., Hawthorne, J., Swasy, A., & McKinney, M. S. (2015). Co-viewing, tweeting and facebooking the 2012 presidential debates. Electronic News, 9, 195-214.