Tuesday Seminar – 9 November

Candidate Rhetorical Strategy and Perceptions of Sincerity 

Elizabeth Simas (University of Houston)
Scott Clifford (University of Houston)

Recent polls suggest that as few as 8% of Americans think that politicians believe most of the stances that they take on issues. This extreme level of cynicism threatens to break a fundamental link in representation. If candidates cannot credibly convey their positions, then voters cannot evaluate them on policy. Yet, we know little about the strategies politicians might take to convey the sincerity of their claims. In this paper, we investigate whether politicians can signal sincerity by taking extreme positions or by justifying their stances in moral terms. Across two experiments, we show that moral justifications tend to enhance sincerity, while extreme positions do not. In a third study, we show that while extreme stances increase polarization in candidate evaluations, moral justifications do not. Taken together, our findings suggest that moral justifications are a useful strategy to reduce cynicism without contributing to rising levels of polarization. 

Contact Semih Çakır if you would like to participate in the seminar.

This content has been updated on 17 December 2021 at 2 h 19 min.