Will Howell - American Politics Speaker Series


Friday, September 21, 2018, 9:00am to 10:30am


K354, CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge St.

"Making a President: Performance, Public Opinion, and Donald J. Trump"
William Howell, University of Chicago

Abstract: Presidents routinely issue appeals to the American public. Such appeals, however, are not isolated pleadings. Rather, they are embedded in public performances that are laden with symbolism and ritual. We show that such performances can alter public perceptions of the president, at least temporarily. Members of the public randomly encouraged to watch Trump's Inaugural Address and his first two appearances before Congress were more likely to subsequently say that he fulfills the obligations, expectations, and norms of his office. Effects were particularly pronounced for people who initially reported lower thermometer ratings of Trump. We also find that the visual elements of political performances, not the content of speeches, leave the largest impressions. We find no evidence that these performances changed people’s policy views. These findings point toward new ways of assessing the character and significance of the plebiscitary presidency.

The American Politics Speaker Series (APSS) is organized by Prof. Jon Rogowski and Prof. Maya Sen, and sponsored by the Center for American Political Studies, Harvard Department of Government, and the Kennedy School. 

This talk is free and open to the public.

See also: Seminar