Political Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 123–156 | Cite as

Nonverbal displays and political leadership in France and the United States

  • Roger D. Masters
  • Denis G. Sullivan


Because contemporary theories of politics discuss the appeal of leaders primarily in verbal terms, it is often difficult to go beyond anecdotes when explaining the effects of televized appearances of leaders and candidates. Experimental studies of the way American viewers respond to televized excerpts of leaders were replicated in France shortly before the legislative elections of March 1986, using comparable expressive displays of Laurent Fabius (then Social Prime Minister), Jacques Chirac (Gaullist Mayor of Paris who became Prime Minister), and Jean Marie LePen (head of the Front Nationale). Although the results show striking similarities in the system of nonverbal behavior in France and the United States, there are cultural differences in the role of anger/threat (which elicits more positive responses from French viewers than Americans) as well as variations in the evocative character of the facial displays of individual leaders. These experimental findings clarify recent discussions concerning the evolution of the French party system, providing insights into the role of political culture as well as leadership “style” in the media age.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger D. Masters
    • 1
  • Denis G. Sullivan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentDartmouth CollegeHanover

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