When the President Tweets: Exploring the Normative Tensions of Contemporary Presidential Communication

Joshua M. Scacco, Lauren Copeland, Amy B. Becker, Julia Berger


Presidential communication has evolved from mass-focused messaging to include more tailored appeals across multiple media platforms. Although researchers have documented how presidents use media and have catalogued some institutional shifts due to communication technologies, we know surprisingly little about public opinion related to presidential communication style. This blind spot is important given the election and presidency of Donald Trump, whose unique use of Twitter challenges traditional norms of presidential communication. In two separate studies, we assess the public’s normative beliefs toward President Trump’s use of Twitter. Using statewide survey data collected in 2017 and national-level survey data collected in 2019, we assess the normative tensions between deliberative and liberal individualistic presidential communication. The findings illuminate a public grappling with these tensions in evaluating the frequency and appropriateness of the president’s tweets.


political communication, American presidency, presidential communication, norms, Twitter, Donald Trump

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