"Obamacare encourage businesses to hire more people ?" : an analysis of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's use of rhetorical questions in the 2012 US presidential election campaign

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"Obamacare encourage businesses to hire more people ?" : an analysis of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's use of rhetorical questions in the 2012 US presidential election campaign

 

Author: Wong, Ming Chiu Steven
Title: "Obamacare encourage businesses to hire more people ?" : an analysis of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's use of rhetorical questions in the 2012 US presidential election campaign
Degree: M.A.
Year: 2014
Subject: Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2012
Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States.
Communication in politics -- United States.
Persuasion (Rhetoric)
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of English
Pages: 46 pages : illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2775918
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/7701
Abstract: This study examines how the use of rhetorical questions (RQs) by presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 US presidential election varies depending on the target audience, i.e. (1) Democrat-safe states, (2) Republican-safe states, and (3) swing states. More specifically, we examine Romney's use of RQs in his 48 speeches delivered to 18 states and Obama's use of RQs in 52 of his 105 speeches delivered to 14 states, in terms of (1) usage frequency, (2) question type, and (3) pragmatic function(s). Our findings reveal that both candidates tended to ask more RQs in the states that leaned more toward their political rival in comparison to their own safe states (i.e. Democrat-safe states for Romney; Republican-safe states for Obama), with the swing states receiving the highest number of rhetorical questions. We also identified the following two tendencies in their use of rhetorical questions. Firstly, in the safe states of their opponents, both candidates preferred the more indirect and less face-threatening wh-questions, and they also used more persuasive and doubt-inducing RQs against their opponents. Secondly, in the swing states, the two candidates intended to reverse their strategy and relied more on using the more direct yes/no question as a more aggressive and forceful approach when addressing the swing-state voters. In addition, they also made more frequent use of the aggressive challenging RQs against their opponents. Both results highlighted the importance of rhetorical questions as a useful means not only for enhancing the persuasiveness of presidential candidates' messages, but also allowing them to avoid directly engaging in face-threatening acts when criticizing each other. This study elucidates how politicians use effective communication strategies to compete for votes in election campaigns.

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