Federica Izzo - Ideological Argumentation in Elections

Date Range
Encina Hall West, room 400

Political parties’ rhetorical strategies play a crucial role in shaping public opinion and ultimately winning elections. In this perspective, what kind of rhetorical arguments to present to the public is a strategic choice of absolute importance. Yet, the formal theoretical literature has largely ignored this issue. Here, we aim to fill this gap by presenting a model of rhetorical argumentation where parties compete to persuade a representative voter before engaging in platform competition. In our framework, parties' arguments are persuasive when voters come to see their own prior systems of beliefs as entailing the claims of the argument, rather than – as in cheap-talk models – when the speaker is (endogenously) trustworthy. While existing work usually takes voters’ policy preferences as exogenous, in our model these preferences will be endogenously determined as the outcome of the argumentation stage. Our approach allows us to characterize conditions under which both parties engage in ideological argumentation on the same issues and those under which they focus on different dimensions. Further, we discover instances where parties tacitly collude and leave a policy issue ‘dormant’, neither attempting to change voter’s preferences on that dimension. Finally, our model enables us to investigate when parties tend to utilize positive arguments to emphasize the strengths of their policies versus when they opt to convince voters of the weaknesses of their opponent’s proposals.


Federica Izzo is an Assistant professor in the department of Political Science at UCSD. She received her PhD from LSE in 2019.

Her research uses formal methods to analyze how electoral incentives shape politicians' actions. She investigates how actors endogenously manipulate key variables that are usually kept constant in formal models, such as voters' policy preferences and the supply of candidates. This generates interesting insights which she develops in several projects. In particular, her research agenda focuses mainly on three topics: intra-party politics, ideology and electoral competition, and accountability in times of crisis.