Performance information in politics: How framing, format, and rhetoric matter to politicians’ preferences

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Martin Baekgaard
Nicola Belle
Søren Serritzlew
Mariafrancesca Sicilia
Ileana Steccolini


Performance information; Framing; Information formats; Rhetoric; Politician preferences


Performance information research has grown rapidly over the last decade with much research emphasizing the importance of how information is framed, presented, and communicated by using a distinct rhetorical appeal. In this study, we examine how the framing, format, and rhetoric of performance information influences preferences among elected politicians. We study the direct effects of how information is presented. We also argue that performance information is always a mixture of different frames, formats, and rhetorical appeals and that it is therefore important to account for interaction effects. Using a large-scale survey experiment with responses from 1,406 Italian local politicians, we find that framing and ethos-based rhetoric affect politicians’ responses to performance information. We also find that the format of presentation is important in several ways. Thus, politicians are more likely to support the status quo when information is presented graphically rather than textually, and a graphical format furthermore reduces the impact of ethos-based rhetoric and – to a lesser extent – the impact of equivalence framing.

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