Thursday, April 17, 2008

Talkin' Sophisticated

There's a new study being reported claiming that there is a positive correlation between candidates who use "sophisticated" language and the amount of support they get from highly educated voters. This effect apparently operates independent of the substantive policy dimensions of the speaker's rhetoric.

Matt Yglesias, observing that less-educated voters weren't turned off by complex rhetoric (they just don't exhibit the positive effect as strongly), thinks that there's no downside to quoting Aeschylus in the stump speech.

Ideally, perhaps, but I think we might be forgetting the lessons of the "bitter" fiasco. The less-educated voters in the study might not intrinsically care about the type of rhetoric their candidate's use. But then, I doubt the study authors subjected them to a follow-up barrage of media coverage screeching about how out of touch the candidate is ("Greek playwrights? Ewwwww!!!!"). The media is perfectly happy crafting its own narrative about how they assume less-educated voters "will" respond to these sorts of things, and then you get weeks of coverage about how Barack Obama is an elitist who is loathed by everyone outside metropolitan San Francisco.

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