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UFCJC Doctoral Student Authors Opinion Piece on the Use of Authoritarian Language in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Campaign

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications doctoral student Brittany Shaughnessy is the author of “2020 Election Coverage Was Rife with Authoritarian Language, Study Finds” published on on Nov. 27.

In the article, she references a recent study by a team of political communication researchers, including Shaughnessy, that examined the 2020 presidential election and how both parties used authoritarian language in their campaign messages. She states that the candidates put their values and morals at the forefront of their campaigns with the hope of appealing to voters during unprecedented times.

According to Shaughnessy, “Aware of the media’s duty to inform the public about political campaigns, candidates are wise to vie for media coverage that could sway public opinion. But should journalists echo their language?”

She writes, “Decades of research have indicated that candidates are successful in influencing the media coverage of the issues that the media cover. If candidates are talking about an issue, the media will match it. However, the candidates also match media coverage — if the media are covering an issue, the candidates are likely to match it.

“Looking toward the future, journalists should be mindful of their language choices — specifically those that may inherently enforce social norms and hierarchies that have persisted for decades,” she writes. “Journalists have the power to change the tone of the 2024 presidential campaign, as our findings revealed that media coverage shaped campaign communication as much as campaigns influenced media coverage. Journalists can help ensure that coverage emphasizes the values that we share, and not the traits that divide us.”

For more information on the study:

Posted: November 28, 2023
Category: College News, Student News
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