Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Russian and American Students' Images of Their Future Presidents

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Russian and American Students' Images of Their Future Presidents

Article excerpt


The question of voters' perceptions of a political leader is very real in the context of political psychology. The image of political leaders held by voters in different countries is of particular interest. The issue of the image of political leaders is a problem that is widely discussed and studied in the field of psychology (Belitskaya & Nikolaeva, 1994; Boorstin, 1992; Bruce, 1992; Dubov & Panteleev, 1992; Labkovskaya, 1997; Strokanov, Rogers, Barclay, & Zhdanova, 2011). The following are examples of types of research on this subject. Ivannikova (2002) studied perceptions of a candidates electoral campaign. The perception of leaders' personal characteristics and its impact on their attractiveness were explored by Shestopal & NovikovaGrund (1996). Komissarov (2007) conducted research on how the media creates images of politicians. Orlova (1997) devoted her research to the formation of positive images of public figures.

However, despite strong interest in the perception of political leaders as a whole, the specific perceptions held by voters from different countries are today among the least studied topics. Nevertheless, in a number of works the perceptions of Russian voters are noted. Research has found that Russian voters perceive political leaders according not to their political agenda but to their image. Ivannikova (2002) explains this phenomenon by pointing out the fact that different parties and candidates in Russia often have similar programs, so people do not perceive political ideas but have an image of specific personalities who carry out these ideas. A similar situation is observed in the politics of the United States.

Analysis of this subject shows that the image of politicians in most studies is considered as a socioperceptive phenomenon (Rosenberg & Sedlak, 1972) and as a result of the perception of the real personal qualities of politicians and their political activities; this perception is carried out on the cognitive and emotional levels of information processing (Ivannikova, 2002).

Therefore, the structure of a politicians image can be revealed through analysis of cognitive, affective, and connotative (behavioral) components (Shestopal, 1995, 2002). Cognitive elements of an image are verbalized and perceived by a person; affective elements, in contrast, are rarely perceived; and connotative elements appear in behavior and precede the execution of an act (Shestopal, 2002).

The structure of a politicians image can be described through an analysis of rational and irrational characteristics. The irrational components include emotional characteristics that are immediate and can appear on the level of unconscious processes (Shestopal, 2002). Unconscious processes can be associated with specific features of voters, stereotypes existing in a society, or peculiarities of social attitudes that are representative of a particular culture.

Rational components of an image include an informative one and can be understood by analyzing the personal qualities of a politician (Shestopal, 2002); these qualities can be described through the study of personality (Osgood, 1952). In Osgood's approach, the image of a political leader can be assessed through attractiveness, strength, and activity. Attractiveness is one of the most important measurements in this assessment. According to Shestopal (2002), personal attractiveness, warmth, and humanity determine the overall impression of a politician and influence her perception and ratings. The attractiveness of a politician is often revealed through such personal qualities as charisma. The criteria according to which a person can be considered attractive have to include the following (Shestopal, 2002):

* appearance (clothing, demeanor) and bodily characteristics (health or disease, physical constitution, fullness or thinness, good or bad habits, masculinity or femininity, age, temperament, physical attractiveness)

* psychological features (nature, individual traits, speech speed) and ethical policy

* political, professional, and business qualities (experience, political views, leadership qualities, skill in political activities, competence)

Another key characteristic that helps to identify the attractiveness of a political leader is recognition. …

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