Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Sorin Matei

Committee Member 1

Melanie Morgan

Committee Member 2

Torsten Reimer


Political candidates continuously develop new techniques for communicating to their targeted publics effectively through social media. One way to do so is through Twitter. This exploratory study maps Aristotelian rhetorical appeals to electoral tweets issued in the 2016 presidential election. Using automatic and human coding, the study proposes four different types of Twitter rhetorical appeals. Results show 58.8% of tweets issued during the presidential election are captured by the rhetorical taxonomy. The findings also show that the primary appeals both candidates use in both mass and salience did not always influence intention to vote. Finally, there are correlations between contextually relevant appeal use and an increase in public intention to vote. The appeal with the strongest positive correlation between changes in public opinion and rhetorical appeal use is the deliberative appeal, suggesting politicians need to focus on crafting messages foreshadowing the future. The major contribution of this study is in showing how a traditional persuasive framework can be applied to explain a modern political communication medium’s impact in influencing public opinion.