It’s so strange that Donald Trump has enough supporters to make him the leading republican candidate. I believe that the third person effect and people’s mistaken perceptions of social reality are to blame for this. First, I am going to explain what role the third-person effect plays in the Donald Trump candidacy. As defined by Richard Perloff, the third person effect is when one underestimates media effects on themselves and overestimates media effects on others.
The fear of Donald Trump as President
There is this growing fear that Donald Trump could become our next president and there are people who are saying if this happens they will leave the country. I believe the fear is getting stronger and stronger because people believe that Trump’s persuasion tactics are working on others due to the third person effect. So even though one may think “I would never vote for Donald Trump, his views are ridiculous and harmful to our country” this same person probably also thinks that Trump is having an effect on others who aren’t capable of resisting his persuasion techniques. When an individual illustrates the third person effect, their beliefs that others can’t resist his persuasion techniques are reinforced when this same individual sees Donald Trump winning states.
A mistaken social reality
This brings me to my next point, how people’s mistaken perceptions of social reality are contributing to Donald Trump’s success in the polls. In a reading by Perloff, he gives the example of how he believes that the media reporting that Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election led people to not vote for Bush. I believe the media is playing the same role in this presidential election. When the media reports that Donald Trump is winning states, I believe that people feel pressure to vote for him as well. This is because there is a theory that people like to rally around the winner. So if they see a certain presidential candidate getting a lot of votes and winning states, they will want to support that candidate as well.
The media plays a part
William Eveland focuses on this idea in his writing that “public beliefs are often shaped by subtle but repetitive messages contained in news and entertainment that are not overtly persuasive” and “these beliefs may eventually translate into opinions and even socially relevant behaviors”. I also believe this strongly correlates with what is happening with Donald Trump. In the past, no one would have thought it would be socially acceptable to support a candidate that has racial views, views that go against our constitution and our country, and disrespects women (or at least I would like to think our country wouldn’t support someone like this). But now, there are many people supporting Trump so people must believe it’s an socially acceptable opinion to have. The amount of news coverage Donald Trump receives must contribute to this. I think that William Eveland made a good point in his writing that even if the material isn’t overtly persuasive, it can still cause people to think what is being covered in the media is socially acceptable. There is a lot of media coverage on Donald Trump, and even though it’s not all persuasive and it’s not all positive, I believe the fact that he’s being covered so much in the news makes people believe he’s worth watching and a legitimate presidential candidate.
If you couldn’t tell from this article, I am one of the people that doesn’t believe Donald Trump would be a good president for our country. And I definitely know that personally I exert the third person effect when thinking about Donald Trump because I fear that others won’t be able to resist his persuasion tactics. My personal beliefs and all of the support I discussed above in my paper are what make me believe that the third person effect and people’s distorted perceptions of social reality are contributing to Donald Trump’s success in this presidential election.
Eveland, W. P. (2002) The impact of news and entertainment media on perceptions of social reality. In Dillard, J. P. and Pfau, M (Eds.) The persuasion handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage 691-727).
Perloff, R. M. (2002) The Third Person Effect. In Bryant, J. & Zillmann, D. (Eds.) Media effects: Advances in Theory and Research. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum (489-506).