Political leaders need to be persuasive to acquire support from citizens in elections and in office. Credibility is essential in this respect. Due to the mediated nature of political communication, citizens base their credibility evaluation on leaders’ media presentations and the public debate in the media that develops in response to it. The source credibility approach suggests that leaders are credible if citizens consider them competent, trustworthy, and caring. What remains underexplored is how these evaluations of leaders’ source credibility come about and how changes in them can be understood. To this end, we introduce the concept of enacted credibility. Enacted credibility entails the framing and reframing of leaders’ credibility in the interaction between political leaders’ performance, citizens, and other participants in the public debate in the media. Empirically we explore the relevance of this concept by studying the case of Dutch Social Democratic leader Job Cohen. We found that the interplay among and between participants in the public debate in the media and his media performance is key to understanding the substantial decline in his source credibility during the 2010 parliamentary election campaign. Our analysis shows that some dimensions of credibility became more salient in the public debate in the media than others, impacting the overall evaluation of his source credibility.
- political leadership
- mediated politics