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A face for radio? How viewers and listeners reacted differently to the third leaders' debate in 2010

Shephard, M. and Johns, R. (2012) A face for radio? How viewers and listeners reacted differently to the third leaders' debate in 2010. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 14 (1). pp. 1-18. ISSN 1369-1481

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Abstract

Neil Kinnock expressed scepticism about Gordon Brown's likely showing in the 2010 election debates, suggesting that the Labour leader had a ‘radio face’. We report an experiment in which students were split randomly between audio and video conditions for the third debate. As Kinnock predicted, Gordon Brown was more often proclaimed the winner by listeners. Nick Clegg, not David Cameron, benefited most from television. These differences were statistically significant despite a small sample (n = 63). We test three explanations for Clegg's advantage: (i) that television boosts the salience of certain traits (notably attractiveness); (ii) that television boosts the importance of ‘style’ over ‘substance’; (iii) that listeners form judgements based on performance throughout the debate, while viewers are disproportionately influenced by memorable incidents or remarks. There is evidence supporting all three explanations.