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Rhyme the Rhyme Well: An Experimental Assessment of the Impact of Style and Rhetoric

Linda Bos
University of Amsterdam
Linda Bos
University of Amsterdam
Claes De Vreese
University of Amsterdam
Wouter van der Brug
University of Amsterdam
Open Panel

Abstract

Scholars conducting research on right-wing populist parties have recently shifted attention to the impact and role of the mass media in explaining the success of these parties. Additionally, attention has been paid to the specific (populist) rhetoric and style right-wing populist politicians use, and the effects this has on their parties’ success, or on the way they and their party are perceived or evaluated. At the same time it has been argued that mainstream politicians are adopting this specific populist language. This study digs deeper into this topic, by using a survey-embedded experiment. Our main aim is to establish the impact of three separate dimensions in the media coverage of a right-wing populist and a liberal politician, populist style, populist rhetoric, and authoritativeness, on the perceived legitimacy and perceived effectiveness of these politicians. An experimental approach allows us to conduct a strong causal test, disentangle the individual effects of the three dimensions as well as test interactions between these dimensions. An online representative sample of 4,000 voters will be randomly assigned to one of eight experimental conditions. Each participant will be presented with a short realistic version of one newspaper story. Absence and presence of populist style, rhetoric and authoritativeness varies over the eight conditions. The study will show which (combination of) aspects in the media coverage of politicians affect the extent to which they are perceived as legitimate and effective, and whether there are differences in found media effects between the two types of politicians.