political sophistication

Reaching the Uninterested by Referring to Valence Traits during Electoral Campaigns

Author: Wojciech Rafałowski
Institution: University of Warsaw
Year of publication: 2022
Source: Show
Pages: 7-36
DOI Address: https://doi.org/10.15804/athena.2022.75.01
PDF: apsp/75/apsp7501.pdf

Successful communication requires the sender of the message to adjust its content to the cognitive abilities of the receiver. Messages that are too complex or not interesting can be easily ignored. Failing to reach the voters with a message during a campaign is troubling for the parties competing in the election. In this study, I explore whether parties in countries in which the voters are less politically sophisticated are more inclined to emphasize their valence traits during campaigns – as these are deemed to be more cognitively accessible – at the expense of discussions of their policy propositions. The results obtained using data collected in ten European democracies show that parties in countries where the general public is less interested in politics tend to devote more attention to exhibiting their valence traits, especially honesty. The level of education of the electorate is not relevant to the relative salience of valence.

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