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Is Candidate Rhetorical Tone Associated with Presidential Vote Choice?

Is Candidate Rhetorical Tone Associated with Presidential Vote Choice?
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Author(s): Christian R. Grose (University of Southern California, USA) and Jason Husser (Elon University, USA)
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 18
Source title: Communication and Language Analysis in the Public Sphere
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Roderick P. Hart (University of Texas - Austin, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5003-9.ch009


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Can voters be persuaded to support a candidate based on a candidate’s rhetoric instead of a candidate’s issue positions? Combining theoretical insights on voter decision-making drawn from valence theories of candidate position-taking with insights from theories of rhetoric and persuasion, the authors argue that candidate rhetorical tone can sway voters to a candidate’s side. Using DICTION 5.0, the tone of candidate speech in U.S. presidential elections is examined from 1976-2012. Candidates who present themselves using language that draws on themes of commonality, activity, and realism are more likely to win a citizen’s vote in elections. Rhetorical tone can sway voters, but only those moderate voters who are distant from both candidates. Rhetorical tone is unlikely to have an effect on voters who perceive high ideological agreement with the rhetorically-disadvantaged candidate.

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