Speaking up: Down-ballot candidate communication, Clinton, Trump, and the election that surprised America
Scott, Kiana M.
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This dissertation examined legislative candidates’ public communications about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, via three forms of analysis. Specifically, I employed content analysis to examine patterns of state and federal legislative candidate communication on Twitter, with attention to the level of office sought, incumbency status, partisan identity, and candidate gender. I analyzed tweets referencing the presidential nominees from 98 candidates running for legislative office during the election. Second, I conducted semi-structured interviews with candidates for the Washington State Legislature, to examine how candidates constructed discourse about the presidential nominees. Third, I analyzed Republican U.S. senators’ public communication responses to the release of a video showing Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, a discursive moment that essentially forced lawmakers to react publicly. Together, these analyses indicate important differences in how down-ballot candidates communicate about the nominees at the top of the ticket, and complicate the role of these political actors and communicators. Findings of this work have several important implications for our understanding of legislative candidate communication, and offer insight into an understudied area of American political communication.
- Communications