Strategic Politicians, Emotional Citizens, and the Rhetoric of Prediction
This chapter argues that strategically interacting politicians who seek to sway public opinion, routinely use predictions about the outcomes of different policies to their advantage. This produces a political environment in which ordinary citizens hear opposing and often contradictory predictions about the future consequences of a policy. The chapter reviews two examples: the Lincoln–Douglas debates and the 1997 Devolution Referendum in Scotland. Over time, serious negative predictions about consequences came to dominate both debates. Those who identify strongly with one or another party or faction can overcome the difficulty created by such user-unfriendly political environments by simply adopting their parties' positions. However, initially-unaligned message recipients, who do not begin on one side or the other, and who want to make the best and most objective choices they can, face a very difficult challenge. The chapter concludes by offering speculations about how unaligned citizens might reach their judgments.
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