Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 348 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ronald N Jacobs

Committee Members

Richard Lachmann, Jennifer Stromer-Galley


civil society, journalism, mass media, political influence, rush limbaugh, talk radio, Presidents, Elections, Radio broadcasters, Conservatives

Subject Categories

Communication | Political Science | Sociology


This dissertation highlights dynamics of American political culture contributing to the development of political talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh’s political influence. Current research suggests Limbaugh’s political capital is produced from an ability to generate valuable advertising space for media organizations, his role as an opinion leader of a politically active audience, or his position within mediated political networks. Regardless of explanation all assert that Limbaugh’s inclusion into national news and commentary legitimates and reflects Limbaugh’s pre-existing political capital. The research presented here contends that the role of the press must be reevaluated as a possible causal factor in establishing his political influence. Drawing from the analytical and empirical resources of Cultural Sociology this dissertation argues that cultural structures manifest in the press create a ‘public image’ of the talk show host. In this way Limbaugh is no longer just a political actor. He also becomes a symbolic political object. By richly recreating news and commentary centered on the 2008 US Presidential elections containing Limbaugh textual analysis can be used to provide evidence for the existence of these dynamics. In turn alternative explanations of Limbaugh’s influence in the US political public sphere, along with other political entertainers like him, can be further evaluated.