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New study addresses differing standards in presidential race

Americans are harder on their leaders than those aspiring to become one, according work by two UO researchers that is attracting widespread attention.

Writing for the academic media website The Conversation, marketing professor Bettina Cornwell and doctoral student Jeffrey Xie say that may explain why the public seems to hold Hillary Clinton to a higher standard than her opponent in the presidential election, Donald Trump. Clinton already is seen as a leader, so people cut her less slack than Trump, who has never held public office, the research suggests.

Cornwell and Xie surveyed a group of college students to see if people judge politicians in the same way they judge celebrity spokespeople. But they added questions about how willing the students would be to blame a politician for wrongful acts and forgive him or her.

They found that the more highly regarded politicians are as leaders, the less forgiving the public is when they err.

“The key finding, however, is not each politician’s various scores but that our views of them as a leader greatly influence our tolerance of subsequent bad behavior,” the article says. “In short, the more the person is perceived as being a leader, the more they will be blamed and the less they will be forgiven if suspected of wrongdoing.”

Cornwell is the Edwin and Julie Woldt Cone Professor of Marketing in the UO’s Lundquist College of Business.

For the full story, see “Why voters don’t seem to forgive Clinton, while Trump gets a free pass” in The Conversation. The story also has been picked up by SFGate, seattlepi.com and numerous other outlets.

Bettina Cornwell is an Oregon Expert in advertising and marketing. Learn more about Cornwell and find more UO experts on the Media Relations website.