“You’re Important, Jeremy, but Not That Important”: Personalised Responses and Equivocation in Political Interviews


  • Maurice Waddle
  • Peter Bull


This study was an assessment of personalised equivocation in political interviews, namely, politicians’ responses to questions which, in lieu of an explicit reply, are directed personally at the interviewer. Twenty-six interviews with recent UK party leaders were analysed in terms of questions, replies, and personalisation. The majority of personalised responses contained elements of criticism, although over a quarter were more amicable. For the eight featured politicians, the use of such responses was adjudged to be more about individual communicative style than their position on the political spectrum. Only one politician did not respond in this manner, indicating a more widespread use of personalisation than was previously suggested. Furthermore, an evaluation of interviewer follow-ups showed its effectiveness as a diversionary tactic in the face of troublesome questions. In terms of the proportion of questions which receive a full reply, a general reply rate analysis highlighted how recent political leaders have changed little from their predecessors.