Media use and political learning: Comparing Trump supporters to celebrity candidate voters

Stacey Frank Kanihan, Hyejoon Rim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study examines whether political media use behaviors of voters who supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election align with those of “celebrity candidate voters” portrayed in the literature. The study used a national online survey (N = 1,608) conducted during the 2016 primary, and findings reveal that Trump supporters, more than other voters, are driven by entertainment motivations and follow campaign news using entertainment media: specifically, the video-sharing site YouTube. Although Trump voters are interested in the campaign, their level of political knowledge is lower than other voters, and no one media outlet made a significant contribution to their learning. A comparison group of other voters showed significant knowledge gains from news websites and Twitter. Results for Trump voters are consistent with scholars’ characterization of the celebrity candidate audience, particularly in studies suggesting that celebrity politicians may increase citizens’ engagement through entertainment gratifications rather than by a desire to become informed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-266
Number of pages16
JournalAtlantic Journal of Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 8 2018


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