Free Media: An Analysis Of Political Communication Strategies And Their Role In The 2016 Presidential Election




Madden, Connor A.

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The purpose of this thesis is to analyze President Trump’s rhetorical strategies and communicative behavior as a candidate for office, and in doing so make sense of the 2016 American Presidential Election as a function of these phenomena. In short, I seek to determine what worked, why, and whether or not it could work again, by focusing primarily on the impact of free media exposure.

I construct my analysis by further investigating 1) this campaign’s relationship to a broader political, social, and historical context; 2) political news and other media consumption, distribution, etc. and the evolution thereof; 3) the specific communicative tactics and strategies Mr. Trump regularly employed; and 4) the evaluative criteria by which the voting public considers candidates for office and the ways in which candidates literally speak to each of those evaluative criteria.

This type of analysis is important because it affords both academic researchers and the broader public a means of evaluating the abstract civic space they occupy. By analyzing Mr. Trump’s rhetorical strategies and communicative behavior, we can better understand our political process as a whole, as well as the individual behavior of the candidates, voters, and institutions within it. We can use what we learn here to confirm or deny what we think we already know about political communication – and possibly lend credence to what many consider to be universal political constants. Furthermore, these analyses allow us to better anticipate the actions and intentions of future candidates for office as they respond to what has already occurred.


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