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Political Science and Political Economy Research Seminar

Televised Debates and Emotional Appeals in Politics: Evidence from C-SPAN

Gloria Gennaro (UCL)

Tuesday 19 March 2024 14:00 - 15:30

Many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as in person or as hybrid (online and in person) events. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.

Unless otherwise specified, in-person seminars are open to the public.

Those unable to join the seminars in-person are welcome to participate via zoom if the event is hybrid.


About this event

We study the effect of televised broadcasts of floor debates on the rhetoric and behavior of U.S. Congress Members. First, we show in a differences-in-differences analysis that the introduction of C-SPAN broadcasts in 1979 increased the use of emotional appeals in the House relative to the Senate, where televised floor debates were not introduced until later. Second, we use exogenous variation in C-SPAN channel positioning as an instrument for C-SPAN viewership by Congressional district and show that House Members from districts with exogenously higher C-SPAN viewership are more emotive in floor debates. Contra accountability models of transparency, C-SPAN has no effect on measures of legislative effort on behalf of constituents, and if anything it reduces a politician’s constituency orientation. We find that local news coverage – that is, mediated rather than direct transparency – has the opposite effect of C-SPAN, increasing legislative effort but with no effect on emotional rhetoric. Looking to electoral pressures as a mechanism, we find the emotionality effect of C-SPAN is strongest in competitive districts. Finally, C-SPAN exposure increases the vote share for incumbent Congress Members, and more so among those who speak more emotionally. These results highlight the importance of audience and mediation in the political impacts of higher transparency.

The Political Science and Political Economy (PSPE) research group at the LSE brings together faculty and PhD students who do quantitative and/or formal research on political institutions, political behaviour, public policy, and political economy.

The PSPE Research Seminar provides a venue for researchers (mostly from outside of the LSE) to present their work.

These seminars are held on Tuesdays in term time at 14.00-15.30, both ONLINE AND IN PERSON in room SAL 3.05, unless specified otherwise.

Seminar coordinator: Mathilde Emeriau

Contact gov.comms@lse.ac.uk to be added to the mailing list and to recieve the zoom link.

For further information please contact Maddie Giles: gov.comms@lse.ac.uk.