The Psychology of Political Communication : Politicians Under the Microscope book cover
1st Edition

The Psychology of Political Communication
Politicians Under the Microscope

  • Available for pre-order on May 15, 2023. Item will ship after June 5, 2023
ISBN 9781032327990
June 5, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
200 Pages

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USD $46.95

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents




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



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Professor 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.

Dr 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.