The Consistent Attributes of the Ideal Presidential Candidate in an Increasingly Divided Electorate

Judith S. Trent, Cady Short-Thompson, Paul Mongeau, Maribeth S. Metzler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Political image is a transactional process between candidates’ actions and how voters assess them with their own individual ideas of the ideal presidential candidate. This 28-year longitudinal study of political communication serves to address the following four research questions. First, what attributes do voters find most important or desirable for a candidate to possess—in other words, what makes him or her an ideal presidential candidate? Second, how do these evaluations of ideal characteristics change across time and a different field of candidates? Third, how important are the candidates’ demographic variables? Fourth, how do the evaluations of ideal characteristics differ across the age, gender, and political party affiliation of the voters? These questions are posed and answered across 1988 to 2016 presidential campaign cycles in one of the longest research studies in the discipline of political communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-297
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • ideal characteristics
  • longitudinal study
  • political communication
  • presidential campaign
  • public image

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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