I am asian and have been in the U.S. for several years, and this has puzzled me for quite a while:

Every time I watch some public speech given by political figures, I am like "what is with those audiences?" Literally every 20 or 30 seconds, they cheer and clap like they never do it before. I understand at some points, the speech can be really exciting, cheerful and encouraging. But every 25 seconds? And when the person is just saying something like "Anger is not our solution"? Unlikely! I mean words like this are certainly wonderful but I don't think it is something that deserves cheering and clapping for 10+ seconds. Those audiences, unlike the Americans I meet in everyday life, who are cooler and calmer, seem to be so easily stimulated (sorry if this is not a proper word, but you get what I mean), even manipulated, like 5 years old kids - whenever parents say we are going out tomorrow, they cheer.

Are these cheers genuine or just a formality? Or in environment like a public speech, influenced by peer pressure, you are not yourself any more? In my country, if people do it, the speaker will be greatly embarrassed and annoyed because it is more like a passive aggressive way of saying "we have had enough of you", because those cheers are actually stopping or covering what the speaker are saying.

  • 1
    I totally understand it is a show of support. I am just saying I feel like it is overdone, way overdone. Actually to a point the actual speech is undermined, and cynically speaking, one can even draw conclusion that they don't really care what the speaker is saying and just cheer at everything.
    – shenkwen
    Nov 7, 2016 at 20:48
  • I know a lot of people who were quoting “Anger is not our solution” and talking about how much they appreciated that line, so you may also misguess what statements are important to Americans in the context of this speaker or this election or what have you.
    – KRyan
    Nov 8, 2016 at 1:45
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    Thanks. This is the underline of my question, I want to achieve American's common sense, at least understand it.
    – shenkwen
    Nov 8, 2016 at 1:46
  • The same happens when I watch soccer or football. Somebody moves a ball over a line and suddenly tons of people are screaming and jumping... I fail to understand how that matters in the slighest.
    – Bakuriu
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:40

4 Answers 4


Those are partisan speeches.

There are crowd warmers (*) that tell people when and how to cheer (clap after each sentence, cheer after the "highlight", cheer some more when politician talks about his opponent).

It is a show made for the media.

(*)I don't know the exact translation of the french term "Animateur de foule".

  • 2
    Not only. You get the same kind of theater in e.g. the State of the Union.
    – hobbs
    Nov 8, 2016 at 0:09
  • 5
    I'm so intrigued by the device you're describing, and so baffled as to what it's called in English, that I've posted to the English Language Usage SE to find out if anyone knows what it's called. Nov 8, 2016 at 0:11
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    It's not a device per say, it's a person who's the main chearleader that pumps up people to clap and cheeré
    – Max
    Nov 8, 2016 at 0:17
  • 1
    cheerleader brings to mind teenage girls. These are professionals (well often interns or volunteers) with job titles, I would guess something like "crowd coordinator" but I've never been inside with anything more formal than "hey Bob, keep the audience pumped" KatherineLockwood's question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/357428/…
    – user9389
    Nov 8, 2016 at 8:48

Americans may be more demonstrative than you are used to. We really like to tell other people our opinions. We often clap or cheer when we strongly agree or boo when we disagree with something said in a context like a speech in a public place where there isn't an opportunity to tell everyone about our opinions in detail. Even those of us who wouldn't give strangers or co-workers unsolicited political opinions.

This is then exaggerated for political effect in televised or well planned rallies. In modern events it is generally about showing party support and adding emphasis to a good line. The applause time is planned into the speech timing. It is generally not taken as undermining or detracting, and while perhaps not totally genuine it is assumed to not be mocking or a dismissal.

This behavior is expected at political rallies and there may be a feeling that you may be in the wrong place, or are detracting from the event if you don't participate. In a less organized venue this feeling is less likely, but exaggerated reactions may come from a desire to lead, as everyone notices the first people to start. Pointed refusal to participate is also reasonably common for a similar reason.

Real policy is negotiated and nuanced, and totally unfit for short speeches to large crowds. If you want the detailed stuff go to or observe hearings and committee meetings.

  • 3
    You don't want to be the one that didn't stand up and clap. OR even the one that waited for everyone else to stand up and clap, you want to be the one that stood up FIRST. It's a devastating cycle.
    – corsiKa
    Nov 8, 2016 at 0:09
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    So the peer pressure is indeed involved here
    – shenkwen
    Nov 8, 2016 at 1:47
  • @corsiKa, could you please say more. WHY don't you want to be the one that didn't stand up and clap - are there consequences beyond 'I'm-not-fitting-in' embarrassment? Nov 8, 2016 at 2:00
  • @Technophile : We shun him ever since he failed to show total devotion to our fearless leader. Nov 8, 2016 at 5:26
  • @Technophile Kind of what Eric said minus the hyperbole. The people who vote for you will see you on TV. They need to know you're a candidate of your convictions. You're a leader, not a follower.
    – corsiKa
    Nov 8, 2016 at 16:27

It seems to me that this behavior is essentially advertising. It must have been carefully designed, and demonstrated, to influence the voting public. My initial guess as to mechanisms:

  1. "Sound bites" - short clips of speeches - are likely to be shown on news and other programs, appear on websites, etc.
  2. Sound bites are likely to be watched by a wider audience than the full speech.
  3. If the sound bites include applause, this provides the appearance of support for the speaker's position, and makes an emotional impact.
  4. In the absence of deep understanding and careful analysis of the speaker's position, the emotional impact is likely to strongly influence voter perceptions.

Most TV shows are filmed in front of a live studio audience.

This is done on the assumption that the TV viewers wouldn't know when to laugh, cheer, clap etc if not told.

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