Lena Maria Huber, Thomas M. Meyer, Markus Wagner
Social group appeals in party rhetoric: Effects on policy support and polarization

The Journal of Politics, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 0022-3816 (print), 1468-2508 (online)

Can parties and politicians increase support for their policy positions by adding appealsto social groups? Social groups provide simple cues that heuristically help voters todecide whether they support a policy. We argue that the effect of group appeals cruciallydepends on respondents’ group affect and the valence of the group appeal. Among thosewith a positive attitude towards a group, adding a positive group appeal to a policystatement should increase support for the policy statement, while adding a negativeappeal (i.e., against the group) should decrease support. Among those with negativeattitudes towards a group, the opposite effects should occur. We test our expectationswith two survey experiments1. Our results indicate that the addition of group appealssubstantially influences the evaluations of voters and leads to higher polarization. Socialgroup appeals are useful to political parties, but these rhetorical tools may reinforceattitude polarization and group stereotypes.