Faculty Publications

Elite Messaging And Partisan Consumerism: An Evaluation Of President Trump’s Tweets And Polarization Of Corporate Brand Images

Document Type



boycotts, buycotts, consumerism, polarization

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Political Research Quarterly


One of the hallmarks of the Trump Administration has been the president’s frequent use of Twitter to express his approval of or disdain for firms such as L.L. Bean or Macy’s. The suddenness with which corporations have come into the political spotlight presents a research opportunity to scholars interested in opinion leadership and partisan polarization. To what extent do presidential tweets lead to polarization of Democrats’ and Republicans’ opinions about the firms that are praised or excoriated? Are these effects especially strong among co-partisans? How long-lasting are they? Using weekly evaluations of firms that came under fire from President Trump’s tweets, we model the net brand ratings of Democratic and Republican respondents. Our time-series results suggest that presidential criticism via Twitter typically has strong immediate effects on net ratings that subside after a few months. One noteworthy exception is presidential criticism of Apple, which coincided with criticism from prominent Democrats as well. Overall, the magnitude of the immediate effect demonstrates the role of elite opinion leadership in precipitating polarized assessments of firms that were previously evaluated similarly across the political spectrum.


Department of Political Science

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version



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