Making a President: Performance, Public Opinion, and the (Temporary) Transmutation of Donald J. Trump
67 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2018
Date Written: December 27, 2017
Presidents routinely issue appeals to the American public. These appeals, however, are a great deal more than words on a page. They are embedded in public performances that are replete with symbolism and ritual. We show that such performances can systematically alter how the public views the president. Members of the public randomly encouraged to watch Trump's Inaugural Address and his first appearance before Congress were more likely to subsequently say that he fulfills the obligations, expectations, and norms of his office. Effects were particularly pronounced for people who initially reported lower thermometer ratings of Trump. We also find that the visual elements of political performances, not the content of speeches, leave the largest impressions. We find no evidence that these performances changed people’s policy views. These findings point toward new ways of assessing the character and significance of public appeals, beyond what is found in the existing empirical literature.
Keywords: Trump, public opinion
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation