Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Tamara Chock


Emotional Perception;Message Framing;Persuasion;Political Debates;Political Participation;Source Credibility

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Presidential campaigns mainly focus on political communication to gather voters’ support for their candidates. Candidates’ ultimate aim is to convince voters to vote for them and not their opponents. Campaign debates are one way to evaluate candidates. Debates provide the candidates a platform to persuade voters to support them over their opponent(s). The candidates stand together and can be analyzed on important issues to the viewers. The statements made by candidates are aimed at winning the elections. James B. Lemert (1993) addresses the question of whether television presidential debates help to inform voters. He argues that while there are arguments both for and against the idea that debates matter, the answer needs to be clarified. Lemert suggests that debates generally matter, but their impact can vary depending on the campaign year. Grounded in the belief that debates matter, this study examines the perceived impact of the 2016 US Presidential Candidate debates between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Focused on candidate statements, the research examines the credibility and emotional perceptions motivating effects on potential voters that could or would result from assessing message frames. It considers the potential interactions of predispositions on future political participation by examining whether there is a moderating effect of party identity on perceptions and intent to support a candidate. This research found no moderating effect but strong correlations between candidates’ emotional and credibility perceptions and their debate statements. It outlines considerations for information processing and lays the foundation for future examinations of emotions.


Open Access