Many good ads or politicians will make a direct appeal to viewers' emotions—and of all the candidates in recent memory, Donald Trump may be the best at doing this. . . .
Think about the emotions anger and fear. They’re both low in appeal (no one wants to feel angry or fearful) but have high levels of engagement.
So what makes these two emotions so distinctive from each other? Empowerment. When you’re scared, you feel like you’re not in control. But when you’re angry, you feel the irresistible urge to speak out and take action. . . .
[Trump is] able to consistently evoke issues in a way that makes people feel anger, rather than fear. (Some of his opponents use fear; for example, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Ted Cruz told the crowd that the IRS “would start going after Christian schools, Christian charities, and…Christian churches.”)
And though Trump frequently raises issues that could elicit fear—terrorism, crime, economic collapse—he does so with indignation, which suggests that the audience should feel that way, too.
He’s angry, but not fearful.
That’s why he’s said that he favors soldiers that have been wounded over those that were captured: to Trump, surrendering under any circumstance connotes fear.
Then there’s Trump’s solution to the illegal immigrants who are supposedly overrunning the country: “throw the bums out, build a wall.”
As for China, he’ll argue that China is “stealing” jobs from the US (there’s the indignation)—and if he were in office, he wouldn’t let the nation “have its way with us.”
Furthermore, the feelings of anger he evokes lead to action on his behalf. Outraged voters are all too eager to post his videos on Facebook, retweet his tweets and promote his candidacy to friends and family.
Note what’s going on here: he simplifies complex issues, framing them in a way that’s intended to get a rise out of voters and infuriate them. But he presents solutions (often simplified, often unfeasible) in a way that comes across as clear—even obvious—and has the added benefit of making him appear in control.
In the end, it’s a calculated image that makes him an incredibly appealing candidate.