Primary Constituency-Focused Presidential Communication
53 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2017 Last revised: 31 Jan 2018
Date Written: January 30, 2018
The presidential primary constituency is a relatively understudied subject in the public and rhetorical presidency literature, and little is known about the strategies presidents use to maintain this group. In recent years presidents have increasingly communicated with core supporters through email lists, such as that maintained by Organizing for America/Action, President Obama’s grassroots lobbying organization. This paper uses unsupervised machine learning to analyze the topic structure of OFA emails and generate measures of the mixtures of presidential presentation strategies used in OFA communications over time. Application of Topics over Time (TOT) topic modeling to a corpus of all 967 emails sent by Organizing for America, Obama-Biden 2012, and Organizing for Action over a seven year period reveals 5 topics suggested by the data, with four focusing on bases of common interest, including shared partisan and ideological affinity, shared enemies, shared issue commitments, and shared movement membership, along with a topic focusing on the reputation of the president. These measures of presidential presentation strategies provide support for the hypothesis that presidents adopt more inclusive strategies for maintaining this constituency when economic conditions improve.
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