Presidential candidates debate during their campaigns to let people know what they will care about if elected. Sometimes they make caustic remarks toward their opponents. For example, Trump called Clinton a “nasty woman” during the third presidential debate. His supporters also regularly drew attention to Clinton’s gender in criticizing her.
To investigate genderization in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, Brent J. Hale, a doctoral student in The Media School at Indiana University, and Maria Elizabeth Grabe, professor at the same university, conducted a content analysis of visuals and headlines shared by candidate supporters and opponents on Reddit, a social media platform designed to facilitate communication and user interaction within communities of interests, or subreddits (e.g., r/ Politics, r/Gaming, and r/Photography). During the 2016 campaign, Reddit was the ninth most visited website in the United States, and the fourth most visited social networking site behind YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
The authors found that Trump supporters most prominently shared visuals of him that featured patriotism and altruistic democracy, whereas Clinton supporters pointed to her patriotism and charisma. Interestingly, Trump supporters rarely mentioned anything positive about Clinton, whereas Clinton supporters were generous in acknowledging Trump’s positive qualities — most clearly his patriotism and charisma.
There was a striking difference in how often supporters of the two candidates acknowledged flaws in the opposing candidate. Trump supporters frequently questioned Clinton’s altruistic democracy, moderatism, honesty and morality. Similarly, Clinton supporters criticized Trump’s altruistic democracy, moderatism and morality.
Trump supporters showed unwillingness to criticize him, rarely sharing negative visuals. By comparison, Clinton supporters acknowledged her shortcomings five times as often.
Both candidates were portrayed as exhibiting masculine leadership qualities more effectively than feminine and gender-neutral characteristics. Trump’s supporters assigned masculine, feminine and gender-neutral characteristics to him at significantly higher levels than to Clinton whereas Clinton supporters presented Trump as lacking feminine and gender-neutral characteristics.
In contrast, Trump supporters referenced Clinton as lacking all gendered characteristics, whereas her own supporters drummed up strikingly low positive stances on all her characteristics.
To read the full text of the study: https://bit.ly/2CBG0QQ
Hale, B. J., & Grabe, M. E. (2018). Visual War: A Content Analysis of Clinton and Trump Subreddits During the 2016 Campaign. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 1077699018766501.