Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Expert in Nonverbal Debate Expressions Available for Comment

George Watson

December 14, 2015

Erik Bucy has done extensive studies on nonverbal expressions in presidential debates.


It's been more than a month since the top Republican presidential candidates were on stage together, but there's been no shortage of news, controversial statements and verbal jabs at each other. On Tuesday (Dec. 15), CNN will host the fifth debate from The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The last two debates have produced attacks not only against each other's positions but the role the media has played in how the public views the candidates.

Also, the third Democratic presidential debate is scheduled for Saturday (Dec. 19) in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The debates also have produced their share of verbal barbs, and a good deal of nonverbal expressions from most every candidate.

Erik Bucy
Erik Bucy

Erik Bucy, a professor in the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University, has done extensive studies on nonverbal expressions in presidential debates and is available by phone to comment on not only the upcoming debate but future debates as well.


Erik Bucy, Regents Professor of Strategic Communication, College of Media & Communication, (806) 834-3346 or erik.bucy@ttu.edu

Talking Points

  • While Donald Trump appears to still be the frontrunner for the nomination, several candidates such as Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz have cut into his lead, while Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina have made strides as well. Jeb Bush especially needs a strong performance to revive his sagging political fortunes, which means not allowing Trump to dictate the tone or agenda of the debate and engaging with a broad set of issues and personalities.
  • In terms of communication style, less is more for Carson, who surged in early polls relative to Trump, but less is just less for Bush, whose calm and collected demeanor is not viewed as a sign of strong leadership in the pre-primary process.
  • Bombastic candidates like Trump, who know only one mode of communicating with potential voters — loud and somewhat tone-deaf to the broader electorate — can't understand the Carson surge or a non-Trump centric campaign dynamic. 
  • The “lower tier” or lesser-known candidates also need a breakout debate performance to show that they have more than just regional appeal. The field is beginning to winnow and the number of candidates left standing after each debate will continue to narrow.


  • “A calm demeanor and reassuring style, even tone of voice, is playing well for Carson but not for Bush. A low-key communication style reinforces the image of Bush as a quiet technocrat rather than a capable leader. Decrying the toxic tone of the campaign may play to pundits and thoughtful commentators but doesn't rally potential voters.”
  • “Jeb Bush can't allow himself to be the guy stuck in the middle of another crossfire between Trump and the rest of the field.”
  • As The New York Times recently noted, “Mr. Trump has derided Mr. Carson for lacking the vigor and fortitude to be president, but voters here are drawn to the retired neurosurgeon's low-pitched manner.”

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