Profiting From the “Trump Bump”: The Effects of Selling Negativity in the Media

Profiting From the “Trump Bump”: The Effects of Selling Negativity in the Media

Sergei A. Samoilenko (George Mason University, USA) and Andrey Miroshnichenko (York University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8535-0.ch020


This chapter contributes to scholarship in the fields of media ecology and political communication by investigating the effects of the Trump bump in media-driven democracy. Specifically, it explains how the media's obsession with Donald Trump allowed them to capitalize on his political brand, which in turn contributed to changing the tone of political discourse in the United States. The effects of mediatization, including click-bait framing, increased negativity, and person-centered media coverage, had a distinct impact on the behavior of political actors and the political system as a whole. The dominance of marketing logic in contemporary media democracies provides a compelling argument for critical investigation of brand appropriation in political communication and its impact on the state of democracy. This chapter advocates for the further investigation of the current media ecosystem in order to move toward a public deliberation model that would support enhanced media literacy and citizen engagement in public policy debates.
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The Effects Of Mediatization On Western Societies

In many Western democracies, the role of mass media has grown disproportionately compared to that of other democratic institutions (Esser & Matthes, 2013). Contemporary media scholars refer to Western societies as media democracies (Donges, 2016) in which democratic functions increasingly rely on mass communication infrastructure. The media are no longer a neutral mediator between citizens and government institutions, but an active player that transform politics by acting in accordance with their own judgments and rules (Mazzoleni & Schultz, 1999).

In this sense, “the mediated reality becomes more important than the actual reality, in the sense that it is mediated reality that people have access to and react to” (Strömbäck, 2008, p. 238). In negative use, the term “media democracy” refers to conditions in which news production becomes driven by media logic rather than society’s needs. The increased intrusion of media logic into the operations of other social institutions as an institutional rule has become known as mediatization. In some cases, the adoption of media logic may lead to the substitution of political and judicial functions by the rules of mass media. For example, in his analysis of the famous O. J. Simpson case, Thaler (1997) argues that the media did not just report the case; instead, they were instrumental in creating a spectacle that hijacked American culture.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mediatization: A theory that argues that the media shapes and frames the processes and discourse of political communication as well as the society in which that communication takes place.

Negativity Bias: The notion that things of a more negative nature have a greater effect on one's psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.

The Trump Bump: A sudden rise in stock market share value or revenue as a result of the election of Donald Trump and his electoral victory.

The Personalization of Politics: The process of constructing a political news content around personalities rather than institutions and social issues.

Framing: The process of selecting some aspects of a perceived reality and making them more salient in the news media. This is to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described.

Fake News: False information or disinformation spread via traditional or online media.

Political Brand: The overarching feeling, impression, association or image the public has towards a politician, political organization, or nation.

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