How does style persuade? Validating classical rhetoric through an empirical study of the practice and effects of rhetorical figures in political speech

01 October 2018 → 31 August 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Communication sciences not elsewhere classified
political sciences political marketing political strategy Rhetoric persuasion rhetorical figures
Project description

The depillarization tendency in Western democracies since the 1950s has resulted in an increasing
level of voter volatility and the growing importance of persuasion strategies in political
communication. Interestingly, politicians still compose speeches using classical rhetoric (e.g.
pathos, logos, rhetorical figures), which have never been empirically validated within political
marketing, despite research in advertising theory indicating their effectiveness. This research
project takes the first step towards the validation of classical rhetoric in political speech. We will
focus on the effects of rhetorical figures in persuasive speech and establish the way in which
rhetorical figures affect persuasion. First, we will analyse the use of rhetorical figures in political
speeches in three countries/regions: USA, Italy and Flanders. Then we will examine the effects of
rhetorical figures considering argument quality, message direction and issue involvement. In doing
so, the proposed research sheds a light on the practice and efficacy of a frequent rhetorical device,namely rhetorical figures. These insights would support political analysts and speech writers,
sharpen political marketing strategies. Moreover, public dissemination of our research results by
means of a business case related to or educational packages of information literacy aspects of
political communication will raise persuasion knowledge of political messages of both adult and
young voters.