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21-07-2018 | Original Paper | Issue 1/2020

Political Behavior 1/2020

The Effect of Language on Political Appeal: Results from a Survey Experiment in Thailand

Journal:
Political Behavior > Issue 1/2020
Author:
Jacob I. Ricks
Important notes

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11109-018-9487-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
A correction to this article is available online at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11109-018-9508-y.

Abstract

Politicians have long engaged in marketing themselves by employing distinct speaking styles to signal social standing, competence, or a shared background with their audience. What effect does this use of different language appeals have on voter opinion? Utilizing a survey experiment in Thailand, I test a set of hypotheses about the effect of language on respondent opinions. Relying on three distinct treatments, a formal language register, an informal language register, and an ethnic language, I demonstrate the multiple effects of language on political appeal. The use of a formal register has mixed effects, signaling both high education as well as preparation for national office while also creating social distance between the speaker and audience. An informal register and the ethnic tongue both signal kinship ties to listeners, with the ethnic tongue having a much more profound effect. The results also show that an ethnic overture has greater electoral appeal than formal speech. These findings highlight the causal effect language has in shaping political opinions and illustrate the varied impacts of linguistic hierarchies on political appeal.

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