Trust me : how the GOP talked Americans out of trusting
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Political scholars have long viewed trust as central to democratic political systems because people must have it, to some degree, to function together in a civil society. As of 2016, however, it is difficult to find trust anywhere. Guided by framing theory as advanced by Gamson (1992) and Entman (1993), this dissertation complements trust studies by asking a language-based question: “How have elites invited audiences to think about trust?” This longitudinal project assesses elite trust-talk from 1948 – 2012 by using a combination of content analysis (n = 1,990) and thematic analysis. After identifying the prominent frequencies and significant differences within each chapter, I returned to the tokens-in-context to better understand elite frame-building surrounding trust. The themes and sub-themes are organized into four analysis chapters: candidates during campaigns (Chapter 3), presidents during governing moments (Chapter 4), journalists during campaigns (Chapter 5), and journalists during governing moments (Chapter 6). Chapter 3 reveals that candidates (namely Republicans) made trust relational. Conversely, Chapter 4 shows how presidents (again Republicans) led the charge with their institutional trust-talk. The data in Chapter 5 reveals that journalists politicized trust during campaigns and then broaden the narrative during governing moments (Chapter 6). By listening to voices across time and circumstance, I found that Republican politicians offered the public a rather dysfunctional relationship with respect to trust. The media often recirculated the toxic trust-talk and did very little to invite a more secure connection.