Chris Christie's Use of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey's Gubernatorial Elections

By Celeste R. Aguzino
2014, Vol. 6 No. 12 | pg. 2/4 |

Both qualitative and quantitative analysis was used while reviewing the advertisements and speeches of previous hypotheses (Moral Foundations Theory and Leadership Styles perspectives). Specifically, the methods of Moral Foundations Theory and Leadership Styles provide words and attributes to code for, which provides a qualitative analysis. The frequency of exhibits displaying these characteristics was counted, providing a quantitative perspective. When the author analyzed each exhibit, she looked for examples of rhetoric that both support and violate the moral foundations theory for liberals and conservatives.

Moral Foundations Theory is comprised of five dichotomies: harm v. care, fairness v. reciprocity, ingroup v. outgroup, authority v. respect, and purity v. sanctity. Harm v. care refers to values of “kindness, gentleness, or nuturance.”15 Fairness v. reciprocity can be related to ideas about equality and justice. Ingroup v. outgroup underlines principles of commitment and self-sacrifice for a particular coalition. Authority v. respect is defined as one’s ideas about leadership and followership, including respect for traditions. Lastly, sanctity v. purity is shaped by obedience, religious values, and morality. The Moral Foundation Theory was chosen for its clarity in qualitatively analyzing an abstract topic, political attitudes.

Table 1: Moral Foundations and Coded Words


Possible Words

Harm v. Care

Recovery; compassion; neighbor; children; friend; suffering; pain; harm; safe; hurt; exploited

Fairness v. Reciprocity

Opportunity; bipartisan; bipartisanship; compromise; everyone; reform; equality; fair; justice

Ingroup v. Outgroup

Different; difference; together; community; mission; unconventional; loyal; Washington D.C. v. NJ comparisons

Authority v. Respect

Commitment; leadership; honored; references to other national or state leaders; respect; obey; tradition; serve

Sanctity v. Purity

Integrity; honest; mess; corrupt; prevention; fraud; ethical; clean (in reference to record, morals)

This study also analyzed the application of these moral foundations within Cameron’s Five Leadership Models because when studying leadership, Christie’s long-term political agenda should be evaluated. To determine whether Governor Christie’s moral foundations and leadership style have changed between his first and second gubernatorial election, the exhibits were coded for the moral foundation dichotomies using the word list below.

The specific words were a combination of phrases or in the case of leadership styles, attributes, in the original studies, in addition to the researcher’s original contributions. The five leadership styles presented by Cameron and Green—the Edgy Catalyzer, the Visionary Motivator, the Measured Connector, the Tenacious Implementer, and the Thoughtful Architect16 were also used to analyze Christie’s campaign exhibits. The leadership models were chosen because the method extended concepts of Moral Foundations Theory, but the Leaderships Styles are apolitical. A Thoughtful Architect could be a liberal, conservative, or independent; leadership characteristics are not conducive to political ideology.

The two significant leadership styles for this study were the Edgy Catalyzer and Visionary Motivator. The Edgy Catalyzer is a leader who asks the difficult, yet essential questions and creates discomfort and unease when conditions are not improved. Edgy Catalyzers are further described as not being intimidated by politics, but respecting the system’s history and power.17 The Visionary Motivator leadership model works to energize and engage people, but also has strong purpose, influence, and dynamism. These kinds of leaders focus on applying an organization’s resources and talents to develop a sense of potential. For more information on the three additional leadership styles and a summary of each model’s attributes, consult Table 2.

To relate the exhibits to these methods, the author counted the number of times Christie’s advertisements and speeches related to these criterions and definitions. Each dichotomy or leadership style was a category and Christie’s words, actions, and appeals were sorted to determine his emphasized moral foundations and adopted leadership styles.

Table 2: Leadership Styles

Leadership Style

Definition and Characteristics

Edgy Catalyzer

Focuses on and enjoys discomfort; asks the difficult questions; spots dysfunction; troubleshooter; respects power; tackles difficult topics; confrontational; cares about “getting things right”; argumentative; robust.

Visionary Motivator

Articulates a compelling view of future; connects with and energizes people easily; wants to focus on organization’s strengths; uses emotionally charged language; good for low morale or complex situations; upbeat.

Measured Connector

Establishes a few ground rules; goal is “focused reassurance;” connects different agendas and strives for common purpose; slowly creates trust; influences in an unhurried way; well respected; not interested in power politics.

Tenacious Implementer

Driving force in projects; forward-thinking; uses persuasive logic; works on task-related progress; has continuous and targeted communication; has very high integrity; constantly seeks to make things better.

Thoughtful Architect

Designs plan or strategy; may appear introverted; values depth in ideas; respects competence and expertise; very passionate; focused on long-term; sometimes struggles to favor people over concepts; reflective

In their studies, Cameron and Green found that while leaders are capable of all five models, individuals have a “default mode”18 Understanding the concept of “default mode” is critical in analyzing how Christie’s leadership styles evolved as a result of Hurricane Sandy, a primary focus in this study.

Table 3: Findings

2009 Coverage

2013 Coverage

H/C: 33%

EC: 100%

H/C: 100%

EC: 18%

F/R: 66%

VM: 0%

F/R: 58%

VM: 100%

I/O: 33%

MC: 33%

I/O: 50%

MC: 17%

A/R: 66%

TI: 66%

A/R: 33%

TI: 50%

P/S: 66%

TA: 0%

P/S: 17%

TA: 25%

H/C: 40%

EC: 80%

H/C: 83%

EC: 8%

F/R: 40%

VM: 20%

F/R: 42%

VM: 75%

I/O: 40%

MC: 0%

I/O: 33%

MC: 42%

A/R: 40%

TI: 60%

A/R: 17%

TI: 17%

P/S: 40%

TA: 20%

P/S: 8%

TA: 17%

According to the data, Chris Christie did shift his moral foundations and leadership style, largely from Hurricane Sandy, from 2009 to 2013. As previous studies predicted,19 Christie’s first gubernatorial campaign strategy reflected typical conservative moral foundations in his commercials and speeches. His appeals to the five moral foundations were equally distributed among the five dichotomies.

Coding for Cameron and Green’s Leadership Styles clearly demonstrated that the Edgy Catalyzer was Christie’s default role in 2009. One hundred percent of both campaign commercials and speeches were sorted under this style. Christie’s commercials were quantitatively based, focused presented facts and statistics, and were direct and frank.20

Findings show that Christie also increased his appeals in the harm v. care dichotomy during the 2013 campaign, in television ads from 33 to 100 percent and in speeches from 40 to 83 percent. Christie also fully embraced the Visionary Motivator leadership model in 2012. In one of his television spots, a voiceover describes his leadership after Sandy: “When tragedy struck, he was there, every step of the way.”21

The researcher found Moral Foundations Theory and Leadership Models related when examining how Christie uses the former to bolster his latter position. This point can be primarily seen when looking at Christie’s appeals to ingroup v. outgroup. A Visionary Motivator already has established support and credibility; Christie strategically used the characteristics of ingroup v. outgroup in his speeches to demonstrate how he is a Motivator to his audience.

In a speech with his 3rd grade teacher present, Christie charismatically explained that voters, “can’t disappoint her,” which creates an ingroup of people who support strong public schools, teachers, and Christie, and those who do not.22 Such appeals show that with growing numbers of support and popularity, Christie is moving toward a Visionary Motivator role as he emerges as a national leader.

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