Approaches to political persuasion


There are general psychological mechanisms to be considered for political persuasion on the one hand side, and on the other hand, there are important specifics related to social context and means in approaching political debates. Still though, the development of convincing policies may involve a significant degree of experimentation too and continue to use the strategy of proving the value of ideas through trial and error.

Approaches to political persuasion

From Luttig and Lavine (2016) it can be understood that the better one’s personal regulatory focus regarding prevention or promotion matches the construction of a policy formulation related to losing or gaining (e.g., focus on health risk or benefit of fitness), the more persuasive the plan becomes to the individual. Political persuasion to be effective should, according to Dewan, Humphrey, and Rubenson (2014), invest into a message’s content and endorsements of campaigns, while the personality of the persuader itself isn’t of the same importance. Regarding the effectiveness of evidence supporting the credibility of a message, Wojcieszak and Kim (2016) found that narratives are more engaging than numerical information and that this effect was amplified with increasing empathy. However, concerning translating persuasion into an attitude change, the numerical evidence seemed to be the more comforting basis, notably from a more objective than an affection point of view (Wojcieszak & Kim, 2016). Furthermore, the political environment is shaping the tone of campaigns as evidenced by the US duopolistic political structure and which led to a more pronounced use of negative messages respectively attacks toward the adversary compared to a situation where more parties were involved (Gandhi, Iorio, & Urban, 2016).

Political persuasion and (social) media

When people perceive co-attending a political message together with even a small number of other individuals the persuasive power, whether positive or negative, of the communication, was reinforced (Shteynberg, Bramlett, Fles, & Cameron, 2016). And more directly, Fulgoni, Lipsman, and Davidsen (2016) found that messages transported by friends were more convincing than ads coming directly from the source itself. Social media provides the opportunity for a diverse communication pool that can lead, even in the case of non-politically motivated news, to political persuasion as one is exposed to a manifold of different opinions (Diehl, Weeks, & de Zúñiga, 2016). Ardèvol-Abreu, Barnidge, and de Zúñiga (2016) observed that citizens’ generated news tend to take persuasive qualities as a result of the often present motivation to influence other news readers.

Effects of humoristic means in political communication

Especially younger adults were found to intensively ingesting satirically presented information (Boukes, Boomgaarden, Moorman, & de Vreese (2015). This immersion into the satirical communication can decrease the formation of counter-arguments and therefore increase persuasiveness; satire’s comedy effect is suspending this effect though and consequently risks to negatively impacting how convincing satire in total is (Boukes et al., 2015). Francesca and Isabella (2016) similarly point to the research result that light and amusing parody is less persuasive in drawing a (negative) political cartoon than a more elaborative and harsh parody style.

In summary, there are general psychological mechanisms to be considered for political persuasion on the one hand side, and on the other hand, there are important specifics related to social context and means in approaching political debates. Nevertheless, the development of convincing policies may still involve a significant degree of experimentation and also continue to use the strategy of proving the value of ideas through trial and error as suggested by Hirsch (2016).



Ardèvol-Abreu, A., Barnidge, M., & de Zúñiga, H. (2016). Communicative Antecedents of Political Persuasion: Political Discussion, Citizen News Creation, and the Moderating Role of Strength of Partisanship. Mass Communication And Society, 1-23. doi:10.1080/15205436.2016.1244855

Boukes, M., Boomgaarden, H. G., Moorman, M., & de Vreese, C. H. (2015). At Odds: Laughing and Thinking? The Appreciation, Processing, and Persuasiveness of Political Satire. Journal Of Communication, 65(5), 721-744. doi:10.1111/jcom.12173

Dewan, T., Humphreys, M., & Rubenson, D. (2014). The Elements of Political Persuasion: Content, Charisma and Cue. Economic Journal, 124(574), F257-F292. doi:10.1111/ecoj.12112

Diehl, T., Weeks, B. E., & Gil de Zúñiga, H. (2016). Political persuasion on social media: Tracing direct and indirect effects of news use and social interaction. New Media & Society, 18(9), 1875-1895. doi:10.1177/1461444815616224

Francesca, D., & Isabella, P. (2016). “The Bitter laughter ”. When parody is a moral and affective priming in political persuasion. Frontiers In Psychology, Vol 7 (2016), doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01144/full

FULGONI, G. M., LIPSMAN, A., & DAVIDSEN, C. (2016). The Power of Political Advertising: Lessons for Practitioners. Journal Of Advertising Research, 56(3), 239-244. doi:10.2501/JAR-2016-034

Gandhi, A., Iorio, D., & Urban, C. c. (2016). Negative Advertising and Political Competition. Journal Of Law, Economics & Organization, 32(3), 433-477.

Hirsch, A. V. (2016). Experimentation and Persuasion in Political Organizations. American Political Science Review, 110(1), 68-84.

Luttig, M. D., & Lavine, H. (2016). Issue Frames, Personality, and Political Persuasion. American Politics Research, 44(3), 448-470. doi:10.1177/1532673X15602754

Shteynberg, G., Bramlett, J. M., Fles, E. H., & Cameron, J. (2016). The Broadcast of Shared Attention and Its Impact on Political Persuasion. Journal Of Personality & Social Psychology, 111(5), 665-673. doi:10.1037/pspa0000065

Wojcieszak, M., & Kim, N. (2016). How to improve attitudes toward disliked groups: The effects of narrative versus numerical evidence on political persuasion. Communication Research, 43(6), 785-809. doi:10.1177/0093650215618480

  • Interesting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, with the upcoming election in The Netherlands. It seems that addressing (playing into) peoples emotions and feelings about various topics is very effective and people tend to forget to look ‘further as the length of there nose’ (Dutch expression).