Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Erin Ruel

Second Advisor

Deirdre Oakley

Third Advisor

Wendy Simonds


Appalachia is a place of mystery rarely examined with a systematic methodological lens (Van Leeuwen; 2008; Carbó et al. 2016). The term “Appalachian” has remained a synonym for “backward” or “ignorant” or “hillbillies” for much of modern history. Do media outlet framings of Appalachians, who primarily supported Donald Trump over two U.S. election periods (2015-2021) reinforce the national understanding of Appalachians as uneducated whites? To answer the question, I used Critical Discourse Analysis to interpret 51 news articles from The New York Times, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Charleston Gazette-Mail, The Daily Yonder, and The Roanoke Times from the announcement of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in July 2015 to the inauguration of Joe Biden in January 2021.

A comparison of articles written in responses posted by Appalachian sources reveals themes from reporting within and outside the region during this timeframe. In my analysis, I found five major themes demonstrating that media framings do indeed support the status quo understandings of white Appalachians as ignorant hillbillies. The stereotypes of Appalachians are like the caricatures of many other marginalized groups -- criminalized and demonized. Stereotypes lead to implicit bias, impacting services, policies, and individual interactions.


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