Critical Analysis of a Political Campaign – Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaigns

Political Campaign Analysis Instructions

you will critically analyse a political campaign of your choice and argue why it was successful or unsuccessful. For example, you could examine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Brexit, or a GetUp campaign. You will draw on the theory and readings to analyse what media platforms were used, which audiences were targeted and the tone of the campaign. You must include at least 10 academic references such as books and journal articles (this does not include news media articles). The briefing report is based on exactly the same principles as an essay so you must include:

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  1. An introduction that briefly outlines which campaign you will be analysing and what you will be arguing
  2. A background that provides an overview of the campaign
  3. An argument about how effectively the campaign used various media platforms
  4. An argument about how effectively the campaign targeted various audiences
  5. An argument about how effectively the campaign used various tones
  6. A discussion of your overall argument, including any counter-arguments
  7. Conclusion

Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaigns Critical Analysis – Sample Paper


Political campaigns are among the most rigorous of engagements that a person can involve themselves in. In many democratic countries like the United States, it is common to have political campaigns frequently for the purposes of filling different elective positions. The presidential elections happen every four years, and they attract widespread attention from a majority of Americans. Politicians that seek to vie for elective positions apply a myriad of approaches in order to appeal to the electorate. This paper elaborates on the various approaches through which Donald Trump carried out his 2016 Presidential campaign.

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The campaigns for the 2016 general election in the United States started as early as 2014. President Obama’s second term was coming to an end in 2016, and, as such, many candidates expressed interest in succeeding him. The election marked a significant period for the Democrats as they viewed it as a chance to continue President Obama’s legacy of instituting significant health reforms, as well as the socio-cultural landscape of the country. For the Republicans, however, this was an opportunity to take back the leadership of the country and push a conservative agenda, an aspect which had suffered a great deal during Obama’s Presidency. Donald Trump was one of the main Republicans that vied for the Presidency and was largely seen as an outsider. However, his ruthless campaign saw him win the Presidency in the end.

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Use of Various Media Platforms

Donald Trump made use of the mainstream media in a number of ways to advance his campaign for the Presidency. One of these involved the placement of various advertisements for his campaign items in the mainstream media. The mainstream media includes television channels, newspapers, and radio. For example, Donald Trump spent about $10 million in the primaries (Myers, 2017). This involved the use of these media to spread some of the agenda that he had for the country. Some of the advertisements that he pushed during the primaries sought to differentiate him from the rest of the Republican candidates (Wells et al., 2016).

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This included his appeal to the veterans that he would take care of the retirement benefits. Some of the advertisements that he put on the mainstream media also sought to discredit his opponents as inadequate to serve as the President of the United States. He also took part in providing numerous interviews to the mainstream media (Wells et al., 2016). This included a significant number of rightwing media houses that directly supported his cause. This was especially the case with the far-right TV station, Fox News. Donald Trump was in close contact with the company and arranged many interviews with the hosts that ran most of the channel’s programs. These TV interviews allowed him to express himself directly to his electorate, as well as seek to appeal to them by pushing the sentiments that resonated with them.

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Another significant way through which Donald Trump used the mainstream media was by taking advantage of the increased attention that the media was giving to him. Donald Trump courted controversy early on in the campaigns by attacking most institutions and popular politicians in the country. He attacked the immigration department for being too lenient to immigrants. His attacks on traditional Republican politicians such as Former President George Bush attracted a lot of attention. Some of his early policies, such as proposing a temporary Muslim ban in regards to immigration, made significant headlines. This had the media following him due to the immense attention that the public paid on his campaign rallies. As such, Donald Trump sought to benefit as much as possible from the free media accorded to him (Francia, 2018). It is estimated that he received up to $2 billion dollars in free media coverage (Karpf, 2017). He tailored his campaigns towards courting as much controversy as possible in order to sustain this free media coverage.

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Social media is another area that Donald Trump extensively exploited to benefit his campaigns for the Presidency in 2016. Social media entails the dissemination of information through media that are personalized forms of media. The most popular forms of social media include Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, among many others. In these forms of media, people have personal accounts through which they can share their personal experiences and opinions, as well as receive information of the same nature from other individuals. Social media has extended into the space that was previously occupied by mainstream media. At the moment, even the mainstream media run social media accounts through which they disseminated news items and other important stories.

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Donald Trump’s campaign exploited Twitter to a significant extent. Prior to expressing interest in running for the Presidency in 2016, Donald Trump already commanded a significant audience through his Twitter account (Enli, 2017). This is because he was a celebrity who had been known for a long time, having featured in popular television shows, such as The Apprentice. Having been one of the prominent businessmen in the country, this also contributed to his fame prior to the 2016 general election. During the campaign period, he used his Twitter account to propagate most of his campaign items. This included his agenda on the economy, the country’s politics, security, and foreign trade and foreign policy. Due to the unpopularity of some of his ideas that were termed too radical by the mainstream media, Donald Trump used his Twitter to campaign for some of those ideas. These included his proposals on building a wall in the Southern Border of the country to contain illegal immigration, as well as pushing for a temporary Muslim ban for Muslims traveling from some countries that he deemed to be dangerous to the security of America (Enli, 2017). He also participated in the retweeting of ideas that he agreed with, especially those pushed by far-right Republicans.

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Facebook was also very important to Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. Facebook has a property where people can create personal accounts, personal pages, as well as running groups that are centered on a given common subject. Due to his huge following on Facebook, Donald Trump maximized on his use of his account on Facebook to popularize his ideas and campaign items. As Facebook provides for the ability to type long texts and essays, Donald Trump’s campaign used this feature to elaborate more on all the policies that he sought to pursue if elected to become the 45th President of the United States. Most of his Facebook Posts centered on appealing to hardcore Republican voters through such ideas as pushing for tightening of immigration laws and securing of jobs for Americans.

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Addressing his Target Audiences

One of the primary target audiences for Donald Trump was the established Republican members. Given that Trump is a longstanding follower of the Republican Party; it was apparent that most of his supporters would emerge from this group of voters. As a result, Trump had to ensure that he gained the maximum number of votes from the Republicans. Trump’s popularity among the Republicans was so much that in the build-up to the election, media reports conveyed there was an assurance that Republicans would not ditch him as they did to Nixon. Notably, the polls indicated that at the time, his approval ratings among the Republican faithful were at 89%. This shows that Trump did well to impress this target audience.

Trump’s campaign message also targeted the far-right extremists. This target audience was mainly enticed by radical ideas, which generated much controversy during Trump’s campaign (Sides, Tesler & Vavreck, 2017). For instance, Trump greatly publicized his intention of sanctioning a Muslim ban after he was elected into the Presidency. Although the statement drew a lot of criticism from the general public, it resonated with the ideologies of the far-right extremists in the country (Schaffner, MacWilliams & Nteta, 2016). Trump’s harsh policies on immigration also exemplified his intentions of appealing to the radical right in the country. At the same time, Trump was associated with a lot of racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic ideals. These radical utterances were al l baits that Trump used to lure the far right in the country.

Trump’s campaign efforts were also intended to impress the veterans in the country. During the entire campaign period, Trump was highly critical of the manner in which the veterans in the country were being treated. As a result, his campaign message was rife with promises that would make the lives of the veterans better. For instance, he talked of eliminating certain protocols that caused the veterans to wait for too long before receiving medical care. In relation to this, Trump often spoke about the Veterans Health Administration scandal, which had been experienced a few years before the election.

The minority population also formed another target audience for Trump’s campaign. One of these groups was disabled people. There is a significant number of disabled people in the country, which explains why Trump chose this as one of the target groups. Although Trump was not very vocal about the disabled people, his campaign message had the promise of a better life. Additionally, Trump also spoke to the black population by engaging with black voters across the country and sharing his substantive policies, and that would benefit these communities. However, it was widely acclaimed that Trump was not very outspoken about the minority groups in the country.

Trump did not leave out the democrats during his campaign. In order to win the election, he needed more than the votes of the Republicans. In fact, some media reports accused Trump of using democratic ideals during his campaign. For instance, Trump often spoke about subjects such as bigger government, entitlement reform, opposing free trade, and the disappearing middle class, which is a subject that has been mainly associated with the democrats in the country (MacWilliams, 2016). Rather than strictly adhering to the traditional views of the Republican community, Trump lifted lines and ideals from Democrats. Through this tactic, he was able to gain the attention of more Democrats in the country. 


Trump’s tone during the campaign period varied with the subject that he was talking about. For instance, he used a blatantly mocking tone when talking about his rivals such as Hillary Clinton. Notably, Trump attacked Clinton vocally on many occasions and action that drew a fair share of criticism from the public. At the same time, he would use a mocking tone when talking about subjects such as when questioning Obama’s citizenship and leadership.

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On the other hand, Trump used a happy tone when talking about ideas such as improving the welfare of veterans, education, transforming the health care sector, science and technology, renewable energy, foreign trade, as well as social issues like abortion and marijuana. In contrasts, his tone turned t that of anger when he handles controversial issues like immigration, the Muslim ban, and building the wall between the US and Mexico.


Donald Trump’s campaign finally turned out successful once the elections had been done. He was able to beat all his Republican competitors in the primaries. This was despite the fact that many of them were already well-established politics. Most of his competitors in the primaries were well-known politicians who had served in various positions politically for many years. Examples in this area can be made of Jeb Bush and John Kasich who had served as Governors of their states, and, therefore, had a reputation in politics. These were people that were also expected to have the adequate political experience to run well-oiled political campaigns. However, Donald Trump emerged victorious due to the efficiency of his methods. His methods also proved vital in the final election that pitted him against Hillary Clinton, an immediate former Secretary of State at the time.

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His use of the mainstream media meant that he was able to spend significantly lower than his competitors (Lawrence & Boydstun, 2017). As outlined in the previous sections, he courted controversy at different campaign rallies in order to attract media attention. Many have argued that the media gave Donald Trump unwarranted attention during the campaigns. The media concentrated on his rhetoric due to the fact that they attracted a lot of audiences. The general public was interested in hearing what he had to say. It can be argued that any reasonable politician would have made a point of taking advantage of the increased media attention. This is exactly what Donald Trump and his campaign team did. His campaigns were focused on creating one controversy after another to be able to sustain the gained attention and coverage. This tactic worked in his favor as most media houses kept providing him with unparalleled coverage. Considering that the media mostly gains from increased viewership, it can be argued that they sought to gain from the coverage they provided to Donald Trump.

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The use of advertisement in the mainstream media is one of the main channels through which Trump reached his followers (Pickard, 2017). This puts the role of the mainstream media in a precarious position, especially in a developed democracy. The mainstream media played a significant role in elevating Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Presidency. Considering that he has been judged as a negative force in American society in numerous ways, the role of the media is put on a sharp focus. It calls for the media always to be responsible in the manner in which it covers different politicians, lest it unknowingly makes it possible for unqualified individuals to rise to high positions of power.

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The increased role of social media in the current society is also brought to the fore by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. His effective use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is one that was unprecedented. He used Twitter effectively to attack his opponents, as well as push for his ideas and proposed policies. Facebook provided him with a platform through which he could engage with his supporters at a deeper level. Any politician that seeks to find support for their ideas in the current age can borrow a lot from Donald Trump’s campaign.

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Donald Trump’s approach to addressing different sections of his audience formed an essential part in him winning the election. In addressing veterans, he acknowledged the importance of their service to the country, as well as promised to take care of their needs (Jamieson & Taussig, 2017). He also approached the issue of respect to women by rubbishing accusations that he did not value women. During his campaigns, many videos surfaced that showed his past negative experiences with women. However, he sought to gain the confidence of women by promising to uphold their stature in society through appointments, and pushing for women-friendly legislations. To appeal to his core base, he pushed for radical ideas, such as promising to build a wall in the Southern Border to prevent illegal immigration from South American countries.


In conclusion, it is clear that Donald Trump’s campaign strategies worked in 2016. Although he started the campaigns as an outside candidate, his deployment of various campaign methods allowed him to gain adequate ground through which he could push for his policies. He made effective use of the mainstream through advertisement, as well as riding on controversies. His use of social media also allowed him to interact with his supporters directly. One of the standout elements in his campaign was his ability to use appropriate tone while conveying different messages. Overall, his campaign strategy was effective and surprised many by winning him the Presidency.

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