Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 September 2017
Politically relevant numbers often have very limited effects on the policy attitudes of ordinary citizens, which make the widespread use of numbers by politicians somewhat puzzling. This paper argues that politicians’ numerical rhetoric may function as a voter heuristic and that the use of numbers by politicians therefore has a positive impact on voters’ perceptions of these politicians. A survey experiment confirms that even when numbers do little to move voters’ policy positions, numbers do have the effect of making politicians appear more competent. As a consequence, numerical rhetoric can in some cases increase electoral support for a politician.