1455 Boul. de Maisonneuve Ouest Montréal H3G1M8
Dr. Kristina Bakkær Simonsen(aarhus University, Danmark)
Immigration and the Politics of Right and Wrong: How, When, Why, and With What Consequences Politicians Use Moral Appeals in Political Communication
Pundits and scholars alike argue that the contemporary period is hyper-moralized: Politicians increasingly make appeals to moral, that is, black-and-white thinking, drawing sharp distinctions between what is right and what is wrong. The activation of moral judgment is considered a central driver of polarization and division; however, despite its implications for understanding contemporary democratic challenges, there is a lack of academic work documenting politicians’ moral rhetoric, especially in a cross-national and longitudinal perspective. We analyse moral language in a large corpus of political text from ten Western democracies over six decades. Employing newly developed multilingual transformer models to detect moral language in political communication, our analysis offers unique cross-national insights into variation in politicians’ use of moral appeals over time, and across countries, political ideology, and political topics. The talk will also present empirical findings on the consequences of this type of rhetoric for attitudinal and affective polarization in the citizenry, focusing on immigration attitudes specifically. In sum, the talk sheds light on how moralization is used politically and discusses the democratic implications of moralization processes.