Power through 'us': leaders' use of we-referencing language predicts election victory
Public Library of Science
© 2013 Steffens, Haslam. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Leaders have been observed to use distinct rhetorical strategies, but it is unclear to what extent such strategies are effective. To address this issue we analyzed the official election campaign speeches of successful and unsuccessful Prime Ministerial candidates in all 43 Australian Federal elections since independence from Britain in 1901 and measured candidates' use of personal ('I', 'me') and collective pronouns ('we', 'us'). Victors used more collective pronouns than their unsuccessful opponents in 80% of all elections. Across all elections, victors made 61% more references to 'we' and 'us' and used these once every 79 words (vs. every 136 words for losers). Extending social identity theorizing, this research suggests that electoral endorsement is associated with leaders' capacity to engage with, and speak on behalf of, a collective identity that is shared with followers whose support and energies they seek to mobilize.
This research was supported by grant FL110100199 of the Australian Research Council awarded to the second author [http://www.arc.gov.au/ncgp/laureate/laureate_default.htm]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Public Library of Science via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 8 (10), article e77952
Place of publication