Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2018

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Communication; Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Program or Major

Communication; Spanish

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Michael Soha


Following the 2016 presidential election of populist outsider Donald Trump, several think pieces throughout the popular press conjectured a comparison between Trump and former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Citing their populist rhetoric, brash and coarse sense of humor, and shared propensity for fiery tirades against the press, these articles made foreboding predictions about the status of American democracy. However, these short and sometimes anecdotally-based opinion pieces failed to acknowledge several important differences between Trump and Latin American populists like Chávez. This paper will address this gap in understanding by evaluating the comparison from an academic perspective. Through in-depth case studies of the political and social contexts of Donald Trump, Hugo Chávez, and another Latin American populist, Rafael Correa, the paper will consider the veracity and implications of a comparison among the leaders. Furthermore, the paper will explore how these comparisons inform the intersection of government, media, and democracy.