Ronald Reagan presided over the United States from 1981 to 1989. Even though the country was experiencing major economic and social problems, he was popular for the majority of the time he was in office. Throughout his presidency, he and his administration worked continuously to build his image as a true American. Partially because of his image, the public ignored the rise in unemployment, the drop in salaries, the increase of people living in poverty, the increase of children born out of wedlock, and the rising number of people in jail. Reagan was popular because the public was focussing on his image and his promises, not what was actually happening.

Ronald Reaganís inaugural speech had a patriotic theme. In it, he stated that the country, which had unlimited potential, was limiting itself by jeopardizing its future. Striving to create a sense of confidence, he pledged to "cut taxes and end deficit spending" and to restore the glory of the United States (35). He sensed what the public wanted, and he promised to achieve it. Throughout his terms, he wanted them to feel that life was improving, whether it actually was or was not.

Reaganís image played a key role in his popularity. To his oath taking on inauguration day, he wore a formal suit. The public approved of his formal attire; his glamorous image seemed to promise that prosperity and security were in store. His good looks and sense of humor won over the public, and his self-confidence persuaded them to trust in him. His acting ability allowed him to convince his audience that everything he said would happen; the audience automatically trusted him to take care of them. To give him the appearance of a hard worker, his staff released a daily schedule that showed him working long hours. To protect his image, his staff allowed him to take part in few news conferences. His strong, self-confident image would be shattered if the public saw his confusion that resulted from his partial deafness and the unexpected questions. When he did not say anything worth printing, White House spokesman Larry Speakes would supply a quote. Reagan increased his patriotic image by hosting a party in celebration of the Statue of Liberty. Leslie Stahl, a reporter for CBS, called him a "symbol of pride in America" (64).

Along with his image, the public also fell in love with his personality. They enjoyed hearing his speeches, filled with entertaining anecdotes and jokes. Knowing that he meant well, they overlooked his factual errors. Most people did not realize that somebody else had written the Presidentís speeches, anecdotes, and jokes. His sense of humor also fascinated the public when he joked about John Hinckleyís assassination attempt on him. His popularity increased, and he received increased support from both the public and Congress. Reagan had an "instinctive ability to reassure and soothe...grieving Americans" after a tragedy (54). After the Challenger exploded in early 1986, he gave a speech that emphasized renewal, saying that Americans must move forward and achieve great accomplishments to honor those who died. Reagan also made an effort to meet his promises. In order to lower taxes and to build up the military, Reagan met with Congress about 70 times to discuss the issues.

Reaganís administration and the media were other key reasons for his popularity. James Baker, Edwin Meese, and Michael Deaver, all three of whom occupied major positions in the White House, "sensed the publicís strong desire to see a president succeed and understood that the media could play a critical role in assuring success" (54). His staff welcomed the media in hopes of controlling them and gave them many opportunities to photograph Reagan working. To appeal to a television audience, Reagan gave many speeches specifically written to appeal to their emotions. An article on television criticized Reagan, contrasting his attendance of the Handicapped Olympics with the reduction of federal support for the handicapped. The article was to his advantage; the pictures of him with the red, white, and blue increased his patriotic image. The viewers saw the pictures of him, glorifying his image and ignoring the message of the article.

During the 1984 Presidential Election, Reaganís administration concentrated its effort on proving his main opponent, Walter Mondale, appear inferior to Reagan.