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The Valence Advantage of Presidential Persuasion: How Presidential Candidates Use Oratorical Skills to Persuade Voters to Vote Contrary to Ideological Preferences

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Abstract:

Can a candidate’s non-policy valence advantages over his or her opponent cause voters to vote contrary to their ideological preferences? More specifically, can superior rhetoric or linguistic skill from a presidential candidate communicated during the course of a campaign cause voters to cast ballots contrary to their ideological preferences? Scholars have long argued that the power of persuasion is a critical one for presidents, though the differential in rhetorical skills between competing presidential candidates has rarely been examined. We offer a theory of presidential campaign persuasion as a valence dimension, arguing that voters prefer skillful communicators in their presidential candidates in addition to standard vote predictors such as ideological distance and partisanship. Theoretically, this desire for skillful speakers is partly a preference for presidential competence, though the voters may also simply prefer good communication skills as an end in and of itself. Using NES data paired with scaled estimates of presidential rhetoric quality, we examine citizen vote decisions in all presidential elections from 1976-2004. Our results suggest that the effects of valence traits (presidential oratorical skills) do cause some voters to choose the candidate further from them ideologically. However, voters extremely close to one candidate, though distant from the other, are not persuaded by presidential speaking. To measure presidential oratorical skills, we scale presidential debates for (1) reading ease and (2) the grade level of speaking of each presidential candidate (e.g., one of Ross Perot’s debate performances in 1992 was at a 7th grade reading level, while Ronald Reagan’s 1980 debate performance measured in at over an 11th grade level). Voters are more likely to vote for the candidate who speaks at the grade level that most closely matches their own educational backgrounds, with highly educated voters more likely to vote for those with complex rhetoric and less educated voters more likely to vote for those with simpler rhetoric. We conclude by discussing implications for voting behavior, presidential persuasion, and the relative importance of ethos versus logos in voter decision-making.
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Name: Southern Political Science Association
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http://www.spsa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p212687_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Husser, Jason. and Grose, Christian. "The Valence Advantage of Presidential Persuasion: How Presidential Candidates Use Oratorical Skills to Persuade Voters to Vote Contrary to Ideological Preferences" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, Hotel Intercontinental, New Orleans, LA, Jan 09, 2008 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p212687_index.html>

APA Citation:

Husser, J. A. and Grose, C. R. , 2008-01-09 "The Valence Advantage of Presidential Persuasion: How Presidential Candidates Use Oratorical Skills to Persuade Voters to Vote Contrary to Ideological Preferences" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, Hotel Intercontinental, New Orleans, LA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p212687_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Can a candidate’s non-policy valence advantages over his or her opponent cause voters to vote contrary to their ideological preferences? More specifically, can superior rhetoric or linguistic skill from a presidential candidate communicated during the course of a campaign cause voters to cast ballots contrary to their ideological preferences? Scholars have long argued that the power of persuasion is a critical one for presidents, though the differential in rhetorical skills between competing presidential candidates has rarely been examined. We offer a theory of presidential campaign persuasion as a valence dimension, arguing that voters prefer skillful communicators in their presidential candidates in addition to standard vote predictors such as ideological distance and partisanship. Theoretically, this desire for skillful speakers is partly a preference for presidential competence, though the voters may also simply prefer good communication skills as an end in and of itself. Using NES data paired with scaled estimates of presidential rhetoric quality, we examine citizen vote decisions in all presidential elections from 1976-2004. Our results suggest that the effects of valence traits (presidential oratorical skills) do cause some voters to choose the candidate further from them ideologically. However, voters extremely close to one candidate, though distant from the other, are not persuaded by presidential speaking. To measure presidential oratorical skills, we scale presidential debates for (1) reading ease and (2) the grade level of speaking of each presidential candidate (e.g., one of Ross Perot’s debate performances in 1992 was at a 7th grade reading level, while Ronald Reagan’s 1980 debate performance measured in at over an 11th grade level). Voters are more likely to vote for the candidate who speaks at the grade level that most closely matches their own educational backgrounds, with highly educated voters more likely to vote for those with complex rhetoric and less educated voters more likely to vote for those with simpler rhetoric. We conclude by discussing implications for voting behavior, presidential persuasion, and the relative importance of ethos versus logos in voter decision-making.

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Similar Titles:
Presidential Debates, Candidate Preferences, and Voting Behavior: Linking Debate Content to Voters' Assessments

The Valence Advantage of Presidential Persuasion: Do Presidential Candidates Use Oratory to Persuade Citizens to Vote Contrary to Ideological Preferences?


 
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