Institute for Propaganda Analysis

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The Institute for Propaganda Analysis was a U.S.-based organization composed of social scientists, opinion leaders, historians, educators, and journalists. Created in 1937 by Kirtley Mather, Edward A. Filene, and Clyde R. Miller, the IPA formed with the general concern that increased amounts of propaganda were decreasing the public’s ability to develop their own critical thoughts. The purpose of the IPA was to spark rational thinking and provide a guide to help the public have well-informed discussions on current issues. “To teach people how to think rather than what to think.” The IPA focused on domestic propaganda issues that might become possible threats to the democratic ways of life. The former head of the IPA was Hadley Cantril.

Execution and Audience

To get their message across, the IPA distributed flyers, wrote several issues of the Propaganda Analysis bulletin, and published a series of books, including:

  • The Fine Art of Propaganda
  • Propaganda Analysis
  • Group Leader's Guide to Propaganda Analysis
  • Propaganda: How To Recognize and Deal With It

The Propaganda Analysis bulletin indirectly targeted the mass public through newspapers, educators, public officials, and opinion leaders, informing them of who controlled and influenced the flow of propaganda through various channels of communications. The IPA directly targeted the presidents and deans of national colleges, bishops and ministers, educational and religious periodicals, and education students by sending out flyers. Also, in an attempt to educate the public about how to identify propagandistic material, the IPA issued a set of methods called the "seven common propaganda devices":

  1. Name-calling
  2. Glittering generalities
  3. Transfer
  4. Testimonial
  5. Plain folks
  6. Card stacking
  7. Bandwagon

These "ABCs of Propaganda Analysis" encouraged readers to understand and analyze their own views on propagandistic material in order to promote informed thought provoking discussions.


The IPA proved to be popular having achieved 5,900 subscriptions to its bulletin in the first year. By 1939, the IPA had created flourishing, educational programs which saw high schools, colleges, and adult civic groups engaged in discussions about propaganda. One of the IPA’s goals was to gain as much public support as possible and build a credible reputation. This initial success was due to the time period’s obsession with propaganda.


The IPA faced many allegations that undermined its purpose. These suggested that the IPA created “more of a destructive skepticism than an intelligent reflectiveness.” The IPA lost support from many of its publishers and also faced internal conflicts through resignations from its board members and its troubled teachers. The approach of World War II also posed a problem. It would force the IPA not only to examine and criticize the enemy’s propaganda, but assess America’s use of propaganda as well. The IPA maintained, however, that the reason it suspended its operations in 1942 was due to lack of sufficient funds and not the war.


In an era ripe with political propaganda, the IPA helped the American public develop its critical thinking skills. The IPA serves as an ongoing symbol of the importance of understanding the nature of propaganda in society.


  • W. Garber, "Propaganda Analysis—to what ends?" American Journal of Sociology.
  • Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publication Inc., 1992).
  • "Propaganda,", October 20, 2005.
  • Michael J. Sproule, Propaganda and Democracy: The American Experience of Media and Mass Persuasion (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
  • Douglas Waples, Print, Radio, and Film in a Democracy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1941).

External links

Institute for Propaganda Analysis official website offers analysis, with current and historical examples, of rhetorical tactics often used by propagandists, based on the framework developed in the 1930s by the IPA.

Wikipedia also has an article on Institute for Propaganda Analysis. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.