Credibility in action: Why some political leaders gain credibility whereas others do not
Zuydam, S. van
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Against the backdrop of governance, individualization and party dealignment, and mediatization and personalization, a leader’s credibility is gaining importance. They can no longer automatically assume the support of a relatively stable group of voters, but actively need to earn it. Citizens increasingly vote the for the candidate they feel deserves their vote most. Credibility is essential in this respect as credible political leadership entails that leaders give a convincing answer to the expectations of citizens. Whether the answer actually is convincing, is up to – in this case – citizens to decide, which makes credibility a relational concept. To determine credibility they basically look for competency and trustworthiness. However, the question remains what competency and trustworthiness entail. Or, in the case of credible political leadership: what is it exactly that they do that leaders do that leads citizens to attribute credibility to them? This question is answered in this paper by studying two Dutch cases of political leadership during the parliamentary election campaigns of 2010 (February 19th – June 9th): Mark Rutte, leader of the Liberal Party, and Job Cohen, leader of the Labor Party. Whereas Mark Rutte gained credibility during this period, Job Cohen lost (some of) it according to citizens. To understand these differences in credibility, and because television and newspapers are important means for citizens to gather information about politics, Rutte’s and Cohen’s television performances were analyzed from a dramaturgical perspective as well as how was written about them in newspaper articles.