Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

School

Communication

Committee Chair

Dr. Jae-Hwa Shin

Committee Chair School

Communication

Committee Member 2

Dr. Christopher Campbell

Committee Member 2 School

Communication

Committee Member 3

Dr. David Davies

Committee Member 3 School

Communication

Committee Member 4

Dr. Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 4 School

Communication

Committee Member 5

Dr. Fei Xue

Committee Member 5 School

Communication

Abstract

This study investigated the role of political agenda building of political speech and tweet in the 2016 US presidential elections and the relationships between the campaign messages and the news cycle during the election campaign period. It also used functional theory of political campaign discourse to evaluate the speech and tweets of the presidential candidates. The study utilized content analysis and analyzed 5303 units of speech, tweets, TV (CNN, FOX and NBC news) clips and news stories from New York Times and Washington Post to derive its conclusions.

The result of the study showed how tweets shaped the media agenda and coverage during the elections period and how Donald Trump used that to his advantage to set the daily media agenda during the elections cycle and to reach out to the audience. The study supported the hypothesis that the salience of issue attributes in campaign speech and tweets will be positively correlated with the salience of issue attributes in news media coverage of the 2016 US presidential elections cycle with 2 (1, N = 5304) = 306.422, p < .000.

The study revealed that the candidate’s speech and tweet is associated with the news media (both TV and Newspaper) coverage of the 2016 US presidential elections cycle, with 2 (2, N = 4788) = 19.944, p < .000. The study also showed a significance in the news media tone regarding the candidate’s speech and tweet during the 2016 US presidential election cycle, with 2 (8, N = 516) = 221.093, p

The study revealed that both Trump and Clinton had over 40% positive tone in their tweet, although Hillary had a little edge of positive tone more than Trump. She had a more optimistic outlook for the country than Donald Trump. Regarding negative tone, Trump tweets were more to negative tone than Clinton. However, this study did not support the assumptions of functional theory of political campaign discourse that candidates will use more acclaim over attack, incumbents will use more of past deed and less attack and candidates will talk more on policy or issue than personal character.

Available for download on Thursday, May 14, 2020

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