Of Fear, Hope and Other Demons: Rhetoric Tailoring in Colombia during Alvaro Uribe's Presidency (2002-2010)
Guzman, David Camilo
Presidential rhetoric is an important mechanism to communicate to the public the issues that matter to him and his government. Most of the literature has found that what the President says has small or inconclusive effects on the public opinion, especially in established democracies. In this document we take an initial step into studying how presidential rhetoric is designed in newer democracies. We study how President Alvaro Uribe in Colombia between the years of 2002 and 2010, tailored his rhetoric around emotional appeals, depending on the political scenario his government was facing. After a content analysis of 2,518 speeches delivered during his two terms, we found that President Uribe used hope and other positive emotional words during his reelection campaign, reducing the frequency of words that inflicted fear. When he faced scandals that affected the credibility of his government, he relied on making his political strategy and its achievements even more salient. We suggest that these findings not only give some initial clues into how political rhetoric is tailored in newer democracies, but also that the use of fear in conditions of pre-existent terror, potentially diminishes the political gains of fear mongering.
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