The recent Conservative pre-election poster campaign ‘I’ve never voted Tory before…’ provides an interesting example of the three variables that interact in the persuasion process. That is, the communicator (source), the communication (message) and the audience (receiver) (Duck, Hogg & Terry, 2000).
Showing Ian the mechanic from Congleton in the poster immediately tells us that the target audience is men who are manual workers. The slogan is ‘I’ve never voted Tory before…’ also tells us that this cohort does not typically vote Tory. So how are the Tories attempting to persuade this group of non-traditional Tory voters?
Social psychologists have found that people are more likely to be influenced by communicators who are attractive (Kiesler & Kiesler, 1969) good communicators (Miller et al., 1976) and by peers and others who are similar (Triandis, 1971). Arguably Ian is attractive, similar to the target audience and by the written words, he communicates well. These variables on their own however, are unlikely to be persuasive enough to change the attitude of the target audience without a strong message.
Allyn & Festinger, (1961) suggest that simple messages are more effective than complex ones. The message being communicated by the poster can be read as – The Tories are the party to sort out the economy and therefore provide work. What is also interesting is how fear can be used to as a tool to persuade (Leventhal et al., 1965). Implied also in the message here is that not voting Tory risks leaving the economy in a mess and threatening jobs. The effectiveness of such subtle forms of persuasion however, will be measured in the ballot box.
Ian from Congleton’s story
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