Voting is the Best Revenge: How Violent Metaphors Shape Voter Turnout

47 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2013

See all articles by Nathan P. Kalmoe

Nathan P. Kalmoe

George Washington University - School of Media & Public Affairs

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

Political candidates regularly use violent metaphors, but little is known about their influence on voting behavior. Are they rhetorical flourishes or effective tools for mobilizing supporters? Drawing from psychological research on aggression and metaphors, I show that the electoral effects of metaphorical frames depend on their resonance with audience traits, both personal and political. I begin with content analysis of violent metaphors in presidential campaigns from 1932 through 2012, which correlate with aggregate turnout. Next I analyze two nationally-representative survey experiments that isolate the causal effects of violent metaphors. Finally, I show how violent campaign metaphors produce similar shifts in individual voting behavior across 11 presidential elections with pooled data from the American National Election Studies. In all three tests, the electoral impact of metaphorical frames depends jointly on audience personality traits and political orientations. This work also reveals the surprising role of aggression in democratic participation, one which also has a dark side.

Keywords: violent metaphors, voter turnout, trait aggression

Suggested Citation

Kalmoe, Nathan P., Voting is the Best Revenge: How Violent Metaphors Shape Voter Turnout (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2299990

Nathan P. Kalmoe (Contact Author)

George Washington University - School of Media & Public Affairs ( email )

Washington, DC 20052
United States

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