Rationalizations of Candidate Dishonesty Vs. Corruption: Process Modeling the Mediating Roles of Perceived Honesty and Leadership Strength in Partisan Voting in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

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Conro, Kimberli Nicole
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Middle Tennessee State University
Using process modeling to analyze data from the 2016 American National Election Study, this thesis investigates whether a model used to explain the paradoxical electoral success of criminally corrupt politicians in democracies can be adapted to explain certain voter choices during the 2016 U.S presidential election, which featured two candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who were widely regarded not necessarily as corrupt, but as dishonest. The study finds that, consistent with the model, some of each candidate’s supporters believed their candidate to be honest. Independently, though, backers of Trump seemed to support him because they judged him a strong leader and approved of strong leaders who were willing to “bend the rules in order to get things done.” The thesis discusses implications of these findings for research about voter choices and suggests that refined operationalizations of these attitudes could help model how voters react to candidates’ honesty levels.
2016 U.S. Presidential Election, Candidate Character Traits, Dishonest Candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clint, Electoral Corruption Support, Perceived Candidate Honesty an