Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Kristina Lee

Second Advisor

Dr. Dominic Manthey

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Card


demagoguery, democracy, media, rhetoric, populism, media, cultivation theory, gratification theory, parasocial interaction theory

Subject Categories

American Politics | Communication Technology and New Media | Comparative Politics | Critical and Cultural Studies | Social Media | Speech and Rhetorical Studies


Demagoguery refers to political rhetoric and activity that seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people. Demagogues are political leaders, such as Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler, who gain power by using a destructive approach to popular discourse. They influence culture by perpetuating and influencing ideologies, allowing them to take advantage of and fuel a dominating culture. Demagogues are present in today’s culture as the political divide becomes greater. This study aims to explain why demagogues are so influential and how social media might be contributing to their growth. In order to do this, three communication theories are analyzed, the gratification theory, the parasocial interaction theory, and the cultivation theory. Each theory explains how humans interact with media and how demagogues are able to use media to their advantage. Additionally, Twitter is analyzed as a social media platform greatly used by demagogues. Lastly, a case study of demagoguery during the COVID-19 pandemic is provided, analyzing how demagogic rhetoric was used during that time and what impact it had. In response, a summary provides the next steps to overcome and make sense of demagoguery.



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