- America, America: national identity, presidential debates, and national mood
- Mass Communication & Society
- Volume | Issue number
- 14 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
In their public messages, United States politicians often invoke America in an attempt to unite citizens and build electoral coalitions. Such an emphasis is particularly common in presidential debates, which are climactic "media events" late in campaigns for the White House, when candidates take questions from journalists and citizens while addressing millions of voters. We analyzed the connection between (a) candidates' highlighting of national identity in presidential debates and (b) mass public opinion since 1960. We expected and found that (a) candidates increased their emphasis on the nation during times of heightened national uncertainty, (b) Democratic presidential candidates invoked the nation more often than Republican candidates, and (c) comparisons across elections among incumbents suggest that national uncertainty was more important than partisan identity in eliciting invocations of the nation.
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