An Interpersonal Communication Perspective on Images of Political Candidates

Authors

  • WILLIAM HUSSON,

    1. William Husson (Ph.D., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1981) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.
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  • TERESA M. HARRISON,

    1. Timothy Stephen (Ph.D., Bowling Green State University, 1980) and Teresa M. Harrison (Ph.D., Bowling Green State University, 1981) are assistant professors in the Department of Language, Literature, and Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.
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  • TIMOTHY STEPHEN,

    1. Timothy Stephen (Ph.D., Bowling Green State University, 1980) and Teresa M. Harrison (Ph.D., Bowling Green State University, 1981) are assistant professors in the Department of Language, Literature, and Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.
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  • B. J. FEHR

    1. B. J. Fehr (Ph.D., University of Delaware, 1981) is an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Bentley College, Waltham, MA. The authors would like to thank James Watt for his helpful comments and advice during the preparation of this article, as well as the manuscript's anonymous reviewers, for their very useful and constructive criticism.
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Abstract

Much of the research dealing with the relationship between candidate images and candidate preferences has attempted to assess dimensions of the candidate's image that are relatively “personal” in nature. By and large, most of this research focuses on static traits—for example, aspects of the candidate's persona relating to such dimensions as warmth, attractiveness, or dynamism. In contrast, the current study attempts to assess the degree to which candidate preferences are significantly associated with observable behavior. This was done by asking respondents to evaluate Ronald Reagan and Walter Mandate with an instrument normally used to assess elements of interpersonal communication. It was found that communication behavior ratings of Reagan and Mandate significantly predicted differential preferences for these candidates, even after controlling for the respondents’ political orientations.

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