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Candidate Confidence and Electoral Appeal: An Experimental Study of the Effect of Nonverbal Confidence on Voter Evaluations

Abstract

The nonverbal display of confidence is strongly associated with leadership and power. However, its importance for the persuasiveness of campaign messages has not been explored. How important is showing confidence for a political candidate’s ratings? How does confidence condition the effect of the quality of a candidate’s arguments? This article addresses these questions using an innovative experimental approach that makes it possible to better isolate the impact of the candidate’s nonverbal confidence and the quality of his message. While both of these aspects influence voters’ perceptions of the candidate’s electability and qualifications, the nonverbal dimension matters more when it comes to electability. This research contributes to the study of nonverbal communication in elections by expanding the focus of inquiry beyond the effect of pure emotions (happiness or anger) and facial traits.

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Delia Dumitrescu is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Opinion and Democracy Research Group, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Box 711, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden (delia.dumitrescu@gu.se). Elisabeth Gidengil is Hiram Mills Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University, Room 414, Leacock Building, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T7, Canada (elisabeth.gidengil@mcgill.ca). Dietlind Stolle is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University, Room 414, Leacock Building, 855 Sherbrooke Street West Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T7, Canada (dietlind.stolle@mcgill.ca). This study received support from the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship (csdc-cecd.mcgill.ca) and from the VP Research at McGill University. We are grateful to Stuart Soroka, J. Scott Matthews and two anonymous referees for their insightful comments, and to Marc Trussler and Joe Heywood for their research assistance. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2014.16
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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
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