Ethos, pathos, and logos in the election campaign of Donald Trump

Term Paper, 2016

10 Pages


Table of Contents








Recalling recent presidential elections in the United States, it can be stated without a doubt that all election campaigns, at their core, are about persuasion. The more persuasive a candidate is, the more success awaits him regarding the elections. Not all residents of the United States agree that Donald Trump deserves to be the President. Someone can label him as a clown, racist, sexist or xenophobe; nevertheless, his victory in the race of persuasion is hardly questionable. The election of him as a president means that he is more persuasive than other candidates. Curiously enough, the art of persuasion had been being studied long before the emergence of the Republican Party.

Aristotle, a student of Plato, is claimed to be the fist who provided the theoretical framework in this field. So, the fruits of the research have been reflected in his famous work the Rhetoric. Aristotle’s theory states that if one wishes to be a compelling speaker, he should be well-acquainted with three pillars of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is about credibility and trustworthiness of a speaker. Pathos means appealing to emotions of the audience. Logos refers to the construction of a logical argument (Aristotle 1356a). The Aristotelian model can be applied to all cases where persuasion takes place; therefore, a presidential election campaign is the perfect example of how a candidate uses rhetoric to get coveted votes. Moreover, it is useful for a citizen to be aware of means by which how he can be persuaded. Hence, that research paper is devoted to applying Aristotelian theory to the case of the recent presidential election campaign of Mr. Trump since its outcome has raised a lot of controversies. In other words, use of ethos, pathos, and logos by Mr. Trump in his election campaign will be detected and analyzed then analytical conclusions will be provided.


In the Rhetoric, Aristotle defines ethos as `human character and goodness` (Aristotle 1365a). Demi̇rdöğen (2010) defines ethos as `the charisma and the credibility of a speaker`. By applying these words to today's politics, it can be stated that voters always wonder to a what extent a candidate would be beneficial for a country as a president, and to a what extent he may be trusted. The main characteristic of the candidate which draws the attention of voters is his background, or, to put it differently, his pre-election accomplishments and achievements. Famous speech evaluator, A. Dlugan, states that professional reputation more than anything else affects a person's ethos (Dlugan 2010). One can think of the analogy with the job interview: one of the main objectives of a potential candidate is to show how well he was doing on a previous workplace. So, how is Donald Trump trying to present his ethos?

When it comes to Mr. Trump, the main argument in favor of his credibility and reputation is his image of the businessman who managed to build the tremendous real-estate empire. Trump certainly is the professional regarding good trade deals. He knows how to allocate resources which are always in scarcity and how to create more jobs. Why cannot he help his country in terms of economy and trade, if he could build a multimillion dollar empire? Drawing attention to his success in business, he is trying to present the image of a leader, who is competent enough to run the country (Bonaccini n. d.). Also, Donald Trump never misses an opportunity to present his ethos in public. For instance, at the Republican National Convention, he says that he is a person who managed to make billions of dollars, therefore he can make America rich again by means of relieving it from unfavorable trade agreements (POLITICO 2016). Hence, that opinion has been formed among those millions of people who gave him their votes. That is an opinion that he is trustworthy enough to govern the country, inasmuch as he knows how to deal with his business empire. As has been noted, reputation is considered to be the main factor affecting one`s ethos; nevertheless, it is not the only one.

The structure of a speech as well as the complexity of the language have a great impact on ethos of a particular candidate. The fact is that short, fragmented and easy to understand sentences reach minds much more quickly and efficiently than long and complex ones. Perloff highlights that a president would be much more popular at the other side of the TV screen if using short, not complicated and easy to understand words and sentences. Considering other factors apart from the complexity of the language, Perloff provides the reader with the example of why Ronald Reagan was elected as a president of the United States twice. So, Ronald Reagan was famous for his speeches in which he used simple and easy to understand sentences while these ones of his opponent, Jimmy Carter, were too long and difficult to understand. (Perloff 1993, pp. 187–188)


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Ethos, pathos, and logos in the election campaign of Donald Trump
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Polina Tkachova (Author), 2016, Ethos, pathos, and logos in the election campaign of Donald Trump, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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