Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science (MA)

Degree Level



Political Science


Patrick Stewart

Committee Member

Andrew Dowdle

Second Committee Member

Robert Wicks


Agenda Setting, Audience Response, Political Communication, Political Psychology, Presidential Rhetoric, Ronald Reagan


This study takes a content analytic approach to analyze the use of rhetorical devices in televised Republican National Convention (RNC) addresses by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. By measuring rhetorical strategies and their relationship with the type, strength, synchrony, and duration of audience responses during the 1976, 1980, 1984, and 1992 RNCs, this study finds that Reagan had the ability to control speech factors to his advantage to promote positive audience response. This study finds that Reagan was adept at utilizing humor, external attacks, and advocating for his policy agenda in a way that elicited positive audience responses such as applause, laughter, affiliative booing, or affiliative chanting from his audiences. Furthermore, by analyzing RNC addresses, this study expands scholarship regarding group behavior in partisan audiences. The findings of this study not only provide insight into the rhetorical underpinnings of Reagan’s speeches, but also reveal the relationship between the speaker and audience in a distinctive partisan environment.