Elements of Political Communication: General guidelines – Fairness

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Negative comments about the opposing side are acceptable, but hit pieces on candidates and causes rarely help anyone. Although some evidence suggests that repeated negative campaign advertisements can increase turnout in local elections,[1] long-term analysis indicates that many of the most commonly held assumptions about negativity in political communication (i.e. that negative political advertisements are more effective than positive) are unsupported by the extensive research conducted on this subject.[2]

Instead, compare your candidate or cause in a positive light. Keep barbs to a minimum and keep them relevant. Remember that your objective is to convince the reader to join your side, not to inflame those who disagree. Hyperbolic jabs tend to incite online comment wars rather than facilitate reasonable discussion. Though often lambasted, politically correct terminology is almost always preferable over colloquialisms or pejorative terms. This includes references to minorities or those on the other side of an issue.


Which of these sentences is the most effective?
A: Candidate Y is a lying, conniving, sniveling puppet of the opposing party, unfit to lead even the smallest unit of government.
B: Candidate Y is a liar. Even though the things he says are untrue, he continues to say them precisely because they aren't, and that's the true mark of any liar.
C: Candidate Y may not want to tell the truth, but our candidate does, and that is why he is the best fit for this elected office.
D: Candidate Y is one of "them", and "they" are against us.
Answer: C. In the first example, those on the fence about Candidate Y will be turned off by your comments, and those who already concur don't need to be told again. The second example contains only awkward, circular logic and doesn't arrive at any real point. The third choice changes the primary focus from the opposing candidate to the person you're supporting. It is still negative, but in a way that contrasts those qualities with the positives of the opposition.

Which of these sentences is the most appropriate?
A: We must stand with the Arabs.
B: We must stand with the Middle Eastern community.
C: We must stand with the Muslims.
D: We must stand with those people.
Answer: B. As a general rule, "community" is a safe word in most contexts. The other three examples are either incorrect, offensive, or both. Ethnicity and religion are not interchangeable terms.


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