When thinking about the 2016 presidential election, it is likely that one of the first people that will pop into one’s mind is businessman, TV personality and republican candidate Donald J. Trump.
What is making Trump’s campaign so “huge”? Trump announced his candidacy in July, and has been making headlines ever since for his controversial topics. But his method of publicity which includes free media attention, through things like hosting Saturday Night Live and participating in television interviews, could be what makes his campaign so relevant.
Dr. Thomas Baldino, professor of political science, cites Trump’s controversy as the cause for his first rise in the polls.
“He was this angry guy who initially attracted a lot of attention by saying things many uninformed Americans, who were also angry, would say,” Baldino said. “So then the mainstream media starts to follow him and he says even more outrageous things, and his standing in the poll increases, and he starts getting more attention.”
According to Baldino, this attention is causing many republican candidates to “bend over backwards” in order to outdo Trump.
Free media attention is neither a new strategy for candidates nor a unique one. “This has been going on for a long time. Trump is just taking it to a new level, because he is a shameless self-promoter,” Baldino claimed.
Dr. Andreea Maierean, who is a visiting
professor of political science, feels that Trump knows exactly what he is doing with this self-promotion.
“Politicians are aware that media has a very strong influence on the public,” she said. “What is relevant here is an effect called priming.”
Priming, according to Maierean, is “what shapes how the public evaluates leaders,” and she feels it is obvious that Trump is well aware of this effect.
“All politicians show their hard side, in political debates or when talking about their policies, but they also want to show their lighter side,” Maierean explained, harkening back to John F. Kennedy’s appearance on the Tonight Show in 1960, to Bill Clinton’s sunglasses-clad saxophone performance on Arsenio Hall’s show in 1992.
“This is to highlight their personality and charisma, which is sometimes not so visible in very serious political debates that are mostly focused on issues.”
The reason why this works so well for Trump is perhaps what Baldino would describe as his “bullet-proof ego” and the fact that he “has no shame” and what Maierean would describe as his prowess as an entertainer.
Another issue which Maierean stressed was Trump’s motive to promote his brand.
“He wants to promote his brand, and his name is his brand. The more attention he gets, the more his brand will expand. The best way to enhance his brand is on TV,” she said. “No one knows who will eventually become the winner of the republican primaries, but we know that his brand will win from all this.”