Taking the Time to Explain the Other Side’s Arguments

A study published in the most recent Public Opinion Quarterly suggests that there is merit in offering more than the standard partisan talking points in speeches meant to persuade voters. A PhD student from Hebrew University surveyed voters in the USA in the fall of 2017 and again in the spring of 2017 and measured their responses to speeches of the same length that differed in complexity: Half the respondents got the speeches that mentioned the counter-arguments as well as the strongest points on behalf of the policy position. The other half just offered the standard talking points on behalf of the policy position. Memory recall was higher after voters got both sides of an argument. And on a heated issue—immigration policy—those hearing the more complex argument responded better than those getting just the “red meat”. On a less divisive issue—paid leave—the difference in responses was more muted. While more research is warranted these findings caution political messengers to refrain from defaulting to the 'Red Meat Menu'. Check out the article in POQ Volume 83. Number 1, Spring 2019.

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