We examine how candidates shape citizens' impressions of their personal traits during U.S. Senate campaigns. We look at the personality traits emphasized by candidates in their controlled communications and in news coverage of their campaigns. We couple information about campaign messages with a unique survey dataset allowing us to examine voters' understanding and evaluations of the candidates' personalities. We find that messages from the news media influence people's willingness to rate the candidates on trait dimensions. In addition, negative trait messages emanating from challengers and the press shape citizens' impressions of incumbents. In contrast, voters' evaluations of challengers are unmoved by campaign messages, irrespective of the source or tone of the communications. Finally, we find citizens rely heavily on traits when evaluating competing candidates in U.S. Senate campaigns, even controlling for voters' party, ideological, and issue preferences.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science