Why politically incorrect speech works in politics


INTRO: When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez refers to immigrant detention centers as “concentration camps,” or President Trump calls immigrants “illegals,” they may take some heat for being politically incorrect, but it has benefits as well. Researchers found that replacing even a single politically correct word or phrase with a politically incorrect one—”illegal” versus “undocumented” immigrants, for example—makes people view a speaker as more authentic and less likely to be swayed by others.

“The cost of political incorrectness is that the speaker seems less warm, but they also appear less strategic and more ‘real,'” says coauthor Juliana Schroeder, an assistant professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. “The result may be that people may feel less hesitant in following politically incorrect leaders because they appear more committed to their beliefs,” Schroeder says.

The study, which includes nine experiments with almost 5,000 people, will appear in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Although liberals more often defend politically correct speech and conservatives more often deride it, the researchers also found there’s nothing inherently partisan about the concept. In fact, conservatives are just as likely to be offended by politically incorrect speech when it describes groups they care about, such as evangelicals or poor whites. “Political incorrectness is frequently applied toward groups that liberals tend to feel more sympathy towards, such as immigrants or LGBTQ individuals, so liberals tend to view it negatively and conservatives tend to think it’s authentic,” says lead author Michael Rosenblum, a PhD candidate. “But we found that the opposite can be true when such language is applied to groups that conservatives feel sympathy for—like using words such as ‘bible thumper’ or ‘redneck.'” (MORE)
"Illegals" is the legal terminology. "Illegal aliens" versus "resident aliens".

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