Is Candidate Rhetorical Tone Associated with Vote Choice?
Christian R. Grose
University of Southern California
Jason A. Husser
March 15, 2013
'Is Candidate Rhetorical Tone Associated with Vote Choice in Presidential Elections?' In Roderick Hart, ed., The Handbook of Research on Institutional Language. Hershey, PA: IGI-Globabl Publishers, Forthcoming
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.
Keywords: Valence advantage, Rhetoric, Rhetorical tone, Diction, text analysis, Political communication, Presidential Debates, Elections, Voting Behavior, Heresthetic, Vote choice, Ideology
Date posted: March 22, 2013 ; Last revised: June 13, 2015