Does Speech Pattern Affect Voter Behaviour

By Dioputra Ilham | 05 Mar 2017
Political | 1 Participant(s) | 1 Response(s) | 937 Views

Communication is a key tool in the struggle towards good governance. As someone who must assure that their governance is accountable, transparent, lawful, responsive, inclusive, effective, efficient, and participatory, a leader must have and maintain a good relationship held up by strong communication with their people. A leader must be able to receive and deliver the needs, interests, and aspirations of those they are governing, things that can only be known and accomplished through healthy top-down and bottom-up communication. Spoken communication has been a favourable method of political communication, taking the form of public addresses, press conferences, speeches, and many more. Here, communication is at its clearest, that being where it can be understood from its empirical content, social context, and emotional impact. However, as different people have different ways of speaking, attempts to communicate with a large, diverse audience may reach some differently from others. How exactly do different ways of speaking affect one’s public reception, and in the case of politicians and individuals running for public office, their electability?


In the past few months, we have witnessed the ongoing dynamic of Jakarta’s gubernatorial election that has moved onto its second round, leaving only two of the previous three candidates contending for gubernatorial office. Jakarta voters are now left with the option of current serving governor and deputy governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, and Djarot Saiful Hidayat, or former Minister of Education and Culture Anies Baswedan and multi-millionaire Sandiaga Uno. Both pairs are brought together by similar sound policies and programs of minor variations as well as contrasted by heavily differing personalities. How do their public personas influence how the general public views them and ultimately is able to trust them with governing power?


As a career politician, Ahok is well known as a controversial public officer. His spontaneous eloquence and demeanor has earned him approval for his honesty and a brutally righteous character in the eyes of the general public. The exact same character, however, has earned him the same degree of backlash as well as public affection. His style of communication that has been deemed ‘uncivilized,’ ‘unpleasant,’ and ‘harsh’ comes off as rude to many, which is not aided by his identity as a double minority in Indonesia as both a Christian and a person of Chinese descent. Despite his extensive history as a politician, Ahok avoids normative language and is very straightforward in communicating his thoughts and opinions. Ahok utilises low context communication which favours casual and low-level difficulty diction in order to obtain better delivery and clarity in his speech. His non-elitist vocabulary makes him easily understandable without leaving the impression of him being two-dimensional. Ahok is also keen on using empirical facts and data when addressing the public to strengthen his argument and justify his actions. However, his uncouth attitude and negligence to bureaucratic politics has proven to be a double-edged sword to him. For example, during his leadership he has often encountered many critiques from non-governmental organisations, legal institutions, and has even been rewarded with feuds between many other provincial authorities. One direct observation of the impacts of his crassness is his current ongoing blasphemy trial accusing him of insulting the Holy Quran during a campaign visit to Kepulauan Seribu.


In contrast with Ahok, Anies Baswedan is known as a well-spoken, idealistic, motivational speaker. Anies is a high context speaker who utilises technical language with a tendency to use diction of high difficulty. A challenge for him lies upon whether or not he is actually able to  execute the plans and policies he promises rather than merely theorizing words and meanings. Anies’ background as the rector of Paramadina University and former Minister of Education and Culture to the Republic of Indonesia has built his image as a hero and friend of young people and students. His hopeful words and optimism has helped him garner support from this demographic, but has also had him labelled as all talk and no walk. Many feel that despite many ideational promises made during his time as minister, Anies failed to accomplish much and question his effectiveness if given the gubernatorial office.

Both candidates have different approaches in terms of public communication. The heated debate that follows has shaped two different blocs with different viewpoints against opposing candidates in the election. On one side of the bloc are civilians who would rather tolerate a less ‘civilised’ character so long as the candidate is actually capable of execution and progress, which in turn concludes that communication that is straightforward is more feasible for electability. On the other side of the bloc are those who believe that a positive, inclusive, and motivational attitude is a crucial element that a leader must have. So how important are personalities and speech patterns in political campaigning?