Fear Appeals, Use in Politics

The logical fallacy of argumentum ad metam or argumentum in terrorem, more commonly known as the fear appeal, has been studied scientifically since World War II. This type of emotional appeal in the political arena consists of threatening or arousing dread or anxiety in order to gain support for one's cause or candidate. Fear appeals have been described by political communication scholars Lynda Lee Kaid and Ann Johnston as appeals that suggest a negative consequence will result if the opponent is elected or, alternatively, if the sponsoring candidate is not elected. Their research has found that 32% of all negative ads use fear appeals—significantly higher than the percentage found in positive spots. In fact, in the 1988 presidential race, a full 75% of the ads ...

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