Social identity, political speech, and electoral competition

Eric S. Dickson, Kenneth Scheve

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Much research in political science suggests that social identity can be an important factor in motivating behavior. If voters care about social identity, when will politicians find it in their interests to make group-based appeals? Do social identity concerns affect the policy platforms offered by candidates? In a model of political speech and electoral competition, in which voters care about both social identities and policy, we demonstrate that social identity concerns can lead to platform divergence even when the policy dimension is uncorrelated with identity. For example, policy-motivated politicians can employ identity rhetoric to obtain 'slack' in the policy dimension. Further, the need for candidates to resort to group-based appeals depends on such factors as the relative sizes of social groups; the policy preferences of group members; whether candidates care about policy and if so, their preferred policies; and the extent of individual identification with groups. The analysis demonstrates that social identity can have a striking impact on the strategic conduct of campaigns.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)5-39
    Number of pages35
    JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2006


    • Campaign rhetoric
    • Elections
    • Ethnic politics
    • Valence competition

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

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