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Playing to the Gallery: Emotive Rhetoric in Parliaments

Osnabrügge, Moritz and Hobolt, Sara B. and Rodon, Toni (2021) 'Playing to the Gallery: Emotive Rhetoric in Parliaments.', American Political Science Review, 115 (3). pp. 885-899.


Research has shown that emotions matter in politics, but we know less about when and why politicians use emotive rhetoric in the legislative arena. This article argues that emotive rhetoric is one of the tools politicians can use strategically to appeal to voters. Consequently, we expect that legislators are more likely to use emotive rhetoric in debates that have a large general audience. Our analysis covers two million parliamentary speeches held in the UK House of Commons and the Irish Parliament. We use a dictionary-based method to measure emotive rhetoric, combining the Affective Norms for English Words dictionary with word-embedding techniques to create a domain-specific dictionary. We show that emotive rhetoric is more pronounced in high-profile legislative debates, such as Prime Minister’s Questions. These findings contribute to the study of legislative speech and political representation by suggesting that emotive rhetoric is used by legislators to appeal directly to voters.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association
Date accepted:14 April 2021
Date deposited:16 July 2021
Date of first online publication:24 May 2021
Date first made open access:16 July 2021

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