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Changing Policy With Words: How Persuasive Words in Election Pledges Influence Voters’ Beliefs About Policies

Journal article
Authors Elina Lindgren
Published in Mass Communication & Society
Volume 21
Issue 4
Pages 425-449
ISSN 1520-5436
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 425-449
Language en
Links doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2017.14065...
Keywords Persuasive words, Election pledges, Ideological left-right values, Individual left-right predispositions, Changing policy beliefs, Policy support
Subject categories Communication Studies, Political Science

Abstract

Parties often frame their election pledges with value-laden words such as freedom and equality, and it is well known that this can influence voters’ support for policies. However, research is not conclusive about why as of yet. This article adds to common explanations of value-framing effects by proposing a linguistic explanation to how citizens are influenced by value words in election pledges. Drawing on what linguistic theory says about persuasive words, this article hypothesizes that value-laden words elicit different beliefs about policy content, beyond what has actually been pledged. To support this assertion, a survey experiment (N = 739) shows that such words do provoke different beliefs about policies and that this, in turn, influences the extent to which individuals support the policies. The findings have implications for representative democracy, as they indicate that voters’ outspoken support for policy pledges do not necessarily reflect their true policy preferences.

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