The Strategic Use of Fear Appeals in Political Communication

Scheller, Simon
Political Communication

Fear appeals constitute a frequent theme of populist rhetoric. One potential motive for this is that they decrease people’s reliance on partisan habits and increase openness to new information. Political actors can use this effect to attract more ideologically distant groups of voters, but not without drawbacks.This paper analyses the strategic use of fear appeals in the framework of the Bounded-Confidence model. It is shown that attracting undecided voters between two opinion clusters is decisive for the success of a party’s fear appeal strategy. Hence, fear appeals can increase a party’s reach for new supporters, yet only if the party manages to clearly differentiate itself form ideological competitors.