This paper explores the role of mass media in people’s perceptions of charismatic leaders, focusing on the case of Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006. Using survey data collected immediately after Koizumi’s 2005 landslide electoral victory, this study empirically assesses the influence of television (TV) and newspapers on individuals’ support for Koizumi and for the most distinctive policy action he announced during his campaign—the privatization of the postal service. The major findings are: (1) the frequency of exposure to mass media is positively related to the support for Koizumi but not for his principal policy and (2) a significant impact of TV is only observed among women. The habit of reading newspapers only slightly correlates with men’s support for Koizumi.. Our study’s results suggest that compared to a political platform, charisma and attractiveness wield a greater influence on TV watchers of the opposite sex. Television apparently works as a powerful amplifier of leaders’ appealing attributes. The resulting superstar effect may allow a charismatic candidate to win an election, even though his main agenda item (i.e., postal privatization) is strongly opposed by special interest groups and members of the ruling party.
mass media television newspapers election Koizumi Japan voting behavior social norms social capital superstar effect