Types of positioning in television election debates

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The present paper aims to show how positioning theory can be used to account for the way politicians present themselves and others during televised election debates. The analyzed data stem from four televised election debates held before recent general elections in Australia, the UK, and the USA. The ultimate aim of each candidate is to convince the potential voters that s/he is the best available candidate for the position s/he is running for, while at the same time showing that the opponent is the worst available candidate. It is thus claimed that positioning in these debates is of a strategic nature. The question is how strategic positioning of self and opponent is accomplished and whether such positioning is negotiated during the debates. It will be shown that strategic positioning can be summarized in the following five dichotomies of positive (self) vs. negative (opponent): likeable vs. unlikeable, capability vs. incapability, achievement vs. failure, right vs. wrong understanding of the position, and promises vs. warnings.


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