Micro-Expressions of Fear and Loathing on the 2016 Presidential Campaign Trail: How Brief Expressions of Fear Influence Trait Perceptions of Donald Trump

32 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2017 Last revised: 21 Feb 2017

See all articles by Patrick A. Stewart

Patrick A. Stewart

University of Arkansas

Elena Svetieva

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: February 9, 2017

Abstract

The 2016 presidential election was exceptional for many reasons; most notable was the extreme division between supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, especially over the unsuitability of their opponent for office. In an election that turned more upon the character traits of the candidates than their policy positions, there is reason to believe that the nonverbal performances of the candidates influenced attitudes toward the candidates. This paper examines the impact of Donald Trump's fleeting nonverbal displays of emotion on how viewers evaluated his key leadership traits of competence and trustworthiness. Two studies, one carried out three weeks prior to the election, the other a mere four days before Election Day, experimentally tested the influence of Trump's microexpressions of fear during his Republican National Convention nomination acceptance speech. Results from Study 1 indicates these microexpressions had generally positive effects on evaluations of Trump, particularly when viewers were first exposed to his opponent, Clinton; however, Study 2 suggests participants had largely established their trait perceptions.

Keywords: 2016 Presidential Election, Microexpressions, Facial Action Coding System (FACS), Political Speeches, Competence, Trustworthiness, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton

Suggested Citation

Stewart, Patrick A. and Svetieva, Elena, Micro-Expressions of Fear and Loathing on the 2016 Presidential Campaign Trail: How Brief Expressions of Fear Influence Trait Perceptions of Donald Trump (February 9, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2914077 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2914077

Patrick A. Stewart (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas ( email )

Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Elena Svetieva

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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