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How Not to Answer Questions in Political Interviews

Peter Bull and Kate Mayer
Political Psychology
Vol. 14, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 651-666
DOI: 10.2307/3791379
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3791379
Page Count: 16
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How Not to Answer Questions in Political Interviews
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Abstract

An analysis of eight televised political interviews videorecorded during the 1987 British General Election campaign showed that both Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock did not reply to a large proportion of the questions put to them (Margaret Thatcher 56%, Neil Kinnock 59%). A typology of non-replies was devised which showed a highly significant correlation of .93 (p < .01) between the two politicians across 11 superordinate categories. Making political points was by far the most frequent form of non-reply used by both politicians, followed by attacking the question. The 11 superordinate categories were further subdivided into 30 subordinate categories, which did show some stylistic differences between the two politicians. Whereas Margaret Thatcher inhibited awkward questions by attacking the interviewers, Neil Kinnock's style was much more defensive; he sometimes answered in the negative (stating at length the policies which the Labour Party would not follow), thereby simply inviting further questioning on the same topic, while also making himself appear evasive.

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