Lee Sigelman writes about a new paper from Christian Grose and Jason Husser on political rhetoric. One of two major conclusions:
We find that more sophisticated campaign speech by a candidate results in a higher likelihood that a citizen will vote for that candidate, though this effect of linguistic sophistication is conditioned by voter cognition. The most highly educated voters are most likely to use the non-policy dimension of complex rhetoric in casting their vote.
In short, you appeal to highly-educated voters not by saying smarter stuff, but just by using smarter words. The really interesting thing, though, is that if I’m reading this right there’s no downside to “linguistic sophistication.” Non-college voters don’t exhibit the effect as strongly, but it doesn’t turn them off. Maybe everyone should be more like RFK and quote Aeschylus in their speeches.