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U.S. Presidential Candidates Can Win Voters Only If They Use The Right Tone

Some who work on campaigns cast doubt, however, on relying on such research to predict outcomes of races, especially for presidential contests where voters are more likely to more intensively scrutinize candidates.

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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, before boarding Marine One helicopter, April 10, 2019. VOA

“When they go low, we go high,” former first lady Michelle Obama recited as her motto.

When it comes to electability, however, that could be bad advice — but not in the way that might be imagined.

Research into the voices of political candidates concludes how a contender speaks is critical — and lower pitch is better.

“Individuals with lower voices are more likely to win and to win a larger vote share,” says University of Miami Associate Professor Casey Klofstad. “What our experimental data show is that we like candidates with lower voices, largely because they are perceived as stronger and more confident and, to a lesser degree, because they’re perceived as older.”

This tonal bias may partly explain the under-representation of women in elected office. And with a record number of women vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. president, the research is receiving wider scrutiny.

Stanford Gregory, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent State University, studied the voice characteristics of the U.S. presidential general election contenders between 1960 and 2000, as well as analyzing the three debates in 2008 between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talk during the presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talk during the presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. VOA

Gregory noted a tendency for McCain to show dominance in the lower nonverbal frequencies of his voice while Obama finished the debates more strongly.

Gregory and his Kent State colleague Will Kalhoff observed a “recency effect,” in which potential voters take away more of an impression from the end of debates.

FILE - Young heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammed Ali, points to a sign he wrote on a chalk board in his dressing room before his fight against Archie Moore in Los Angeles, in this Nov. 15, 1962 file photo.
Young heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammed Ali, points to a sign he wrote on a chalk board in his dressing room before his fight against Archie Moore in Los Angeles, in this Nov. 15, 1962 file photo. VOA

Obama had a “rope-a-dope” debating style akin to the boxing techniques of heavyweight legend Muhammed Ali who would hang back from the start of a fight until his opponent exhausted himself and then dominate the end of the match, according to Gregory who concluded the victorious candidate is the one who sets the tone, so to speak.

“We found it was the person who changed the least in his lower frequencies compared to the other person, so in effect from the beginning, he would set the lower frequency tone and the other person would adapt to that in the course of debates,” says Gregory.

FILE - From left, 2016 Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
From left, 2016 Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. (VOA)

The effect also could be seen in the 2016 Republican primary where President Donald Trump, initially regarded as a longshot, overwhelmed as many as 10 candidates on the debate stage, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.

“It was just obvious this is what he did,” states Gregory.

As Vox news editor Libby Nelson, also an adjunct professor of public affairs at American University, wrote, looking back on Trump’s primary debates’ performance: Trump would “pick out one or two antagonists during any given debate — always some combination of Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz — to try to take down. The point wasn’t to get them to concede a policy point to him, but to establish that Trump was the one who should be allowed to talk.”

Some who work on campaigns cast doubt, however, on relying on such research to predict outcomes of races, especially for presidential contests where voters are more likely to more intensively scrutinize candidates.

“I’m skeptical as a practitioner of anytime someone comes and says, ‘We have isolated the thing that impacts the results of a campaign’— whether it’s yard signs, TV ads, money in politics or how someone talks,” says Matt Dole, who has worked on about 250 local and state campaigns of Republican candidates in Ohio.

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Dole tells VOA that voices “could have a role” in influencing voters, as might a candidate’s gender, facial characteristics, height, attire and other cosmetic features.

Gregory was asked who among the large field of 2020 Democratic hopefuls might best set the advantageous low tone during the party’s upcoming televised debates? (VOA)

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US President Donald Trump Again Slams Google for Manipulating 2016 Election

Trump and fellow Republicans have accused tech giants including Google of bias against conservative viewpoints

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US, President, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 16, 2019, in Washington. VOA

US President Donald Trump has once again lashed out at Google for manipulating millions of votes in the 2016 presidential elections in favour of then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election! This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought,” Trump tweeted late Monday.

However, the report Trump mentioned in his tweet was published in 2017 that described there was a bias in Google and other search engines during the run-up to the 2016 elections.

Trump’s tweet citing an old research paper also tagged conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch with his tweet, “perhaps asking them to investigate. It’s also unclear who he thinks should sue the company”, reports TechCrunch.

In a statement, Google said: “This researcher’s inaccurate claim has been debunked since it was made in 2016. As we stated then, we have never re-ranked or altered search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Clinton also responded to Trump: “The debunked study you’re referring to was based on 21 undecided voters. For context that’s about half the number of people associated with your campaign who have been indicted.”

google, online tracking
A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

The paper was published by Robert Epstein, a psychology researcher who works for the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in June.

The CNBC reported that “Trump’s tweet appears to refer to documents leaked to conservative group Project Veritas, but the documents do not appear to contain any outright allegation of vote manipulation or attempts to bias the election”.

Earlier this month, Trump criticized Google CEO Sundar Pichai for alleged ties to election tampering and China’s military.

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“@sundarpichai of Google was in the Oval Office working very hard to explain how much he liked me, what a great job the Administration is doing, that Google was not involved with China’s military, that they didn’t help Crooked Hillary over me in the 2016 Election,” he had tweeted.

Trump and fellow Republicans have accused tech giants including Google of bias against conservative viewpoints. (IANS)