1st Edition

The Psychology of Political Communication Politicians Under the Microscope

By Peter Bull, Maurice Waddle Copyright 2023
    194 Pages
    by Routledge

    194 Pages
    by Routledge

    Contemporary politics is mass-communication politics. Politicians are not only seen and heard, they are seen and heard in close-up through television appearances, speeches, interviews, and on social media. In this book, the authors analyse the ways in which politicians communicate with each other, the media, and the electorate; they also discuss the implications of contemporary political discourse on the democratic process as a whole.

    Politicians in interviews are typically castigated for their evasiveness. However, microanalytic research shows that there is more to political discourse than this apparent ambiguity. This book reveals how equivocation, interruptions, and personal antagonism can offer valuable insights into a politician’s communicative style. The authors review their empirical research not only on political interviews, but also on speeches, parliamentary debates, and political journalism. Further insights include how political speakers interact with their audiences, how party leaders engage in adversarial discourse at PMQs, and how the spoken messages of politicians can be affected by modern journalistic editing techniques. Thereby, this research generates greater awareness of communicative practices in a diverse range of political contexts.

    While the interviews and parliamentary debates analysed pertain to UK politics, the speeches also draw on the USA, and European and Far Eastern nations. This engaging book is a fascinating resource for students and academics in psychology, politics, communication, and other related disciplines such as sociology and linguistics. The research is also extremely relevant to policy makers and practitioners in politics and political journalism.




    Part I. Concepts and Methods

    Chapter 1. Microanalysis
    Influences on microanalysis

    Central features of microanalysis

    Chapter 2. Theoretical Approaches

    The social skills model

    Face and facework

    Overall conclusions

    Chapter 3. Techniques of Analysis


    Speaker-audience interaction

    Question-response sequences


    Part II. Empirical studies of political discourse

    Chapter 4. Claps and Claptraps: How Political Speakers and Audiences Interact

    Claptraps: Techniques for inviting applause

    Factors that affect speaker-audience interaction

    A model of speaker-audience interaction in political speeches


    Chapter 5. Being Slippery? Equivocation in Political Interviews

    How much do politicians equivocate?

    In what ways do politicians equivocate?

    Equivocation profiles of leading politicians

    Why do politicians equivocate?

    Face and facework in political interviews

    Equivocation and deception

    Equivocation and the use of implicit discourse

    Equivocation and culture


    Chapter 6. The Westminster Punch and Judy Show? Leaders’ Exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions

    A background to PMQs

    Overview of PMQs adversarialism

    Distinctive features of PMQs discourse

    The punch of PMQs?


    Chapter 7. Political Journalism


    Discussion and conclusions

    Part III

    Chapter 8. Summary and Conclusions




    Peter Bull, PhD, FBPsS (Fellow of the British Psychological Society), is Honorary Professor in Psychology at the Universities of York and Salford, UK, and Visiting Professor in Political Communication at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. His principal interest is the detailed microanalysis of interpersonal communication: in particular, political discourse and nonverbal communication.

    Maurice Waddle, PhD, lectures in psychology at the University of York, UK. His research focuses on the interpersonal communication of politicians, including their interactions with audiences, interviewers, and parliamentary opponents. He is particularly interested in the phenomenon of personalisation (i.e., playing the man, not the ball) in politics.