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Consequences of Politicians’ Disrespectful Communication Depend on Social Judgment Dimensions and Voters’ Moral Identity

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The present study investigates the consequences of respectful versus disrespectful communication in political debates on voters’ social judgments and voting decisions. Reconciling previously mixed results, we argue that the consequences of disrespect vary with the judgment dimension (communion vs. agency) and voters’ moral identity. An initial study (N = 197) finds that a political candidate's disrespect towards his or her opponent affects voting decision through voting intention. A second study (N = 327) shows that disrespect influences voting intention through communion but not through agency ratings. Qualifying the previous finding, a third study (N = 329) shows that both communion and agency judgments act as mediators, but in different ways depending on the level of moral identity. Overall, communion judgments played a more prominent part in explaining the consequences of disrespectful communication. Our findings thus present a nuanced picture of respect and disrespect in political communication and shed light on their ramifications.
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Keywords: disrespectful communication; moral identity; negative campaigning; social judgment; voting decision

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2017

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