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Elections and Democracy

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As the 2024 election approaches, how are voters thinking about the candidates running for office and how are candidates using information about voters to appeal to them? What role do online political discussions play in shaping the public discourse about our current political system?

Featured Expert(s)

Research Roundup

Legislators Prioritize Primary Voters Over General Election Voters

A study by IPR political scientist Laurel Harbridge-Yong finds that legislators have incentives to prioritize primary voters over general election voters. These incentives, a product of the American two-stage election process, can shape which constituents’ policy preferences are represented in Congress—and may also contribute to polarization.

Voters Hold Candidates to Their Promises During Campaigns

In her book The Importance of Campaign Promises (Cambridge University Press, 2022), IPR social policy expert Tabitha Bonilla shows that voters notice how committed candidates are to policy issues based on their language and hold candidates accountable for promises. Not only do voters understand the difference between a general policy stance and a specific promise to take action, but also that voters judge candidates more harshly if they do not follow through on their promises.

Presidential Candidates from the Same Party Use Moral Rhetoric in Similar Ways

Moral rhetoric—or emphasizing ideas of what is right and wrong—is a powerful persuasion technique for candidates running for election. Kellogg social psychologist and IPR associate William Brady reveals that presidential candidates from different political parties use moral rhetoric in similar ways. This allows candidates to either isolate themselves from the party, like Donald Trump in the 2016 election, or insulate themselves, like Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Why Are Online Political Discussions so Toxic?

Research by IPR social psychologist Eli Finkel shows that comments by politically engaged Reddit users are toxic even if they are not discussing politics, suggesting that people who choose to participate in political conversations are generally uncivil. This incivility can make people reluctant to engage in political discourse, leaving online spaces dominated by toxic individuals.