“I Feel Your Pain”: The Effect of Displaying Empathy on Political Candidate Evaluation


  • Randall A. Renstrom
  • Victor C. Ottati


Two experiments demonstrate that highly empathetic messages conveyed by a political candidate produce more favorable attitudes and increase the likelihood individuals will vote for the political candidate. Study 1 revealed this Empathetic Communication Effect is stronger among female political candidates than male. Compared to male candidates, female candidates are evaluated more positively when they engage in empathetic language but are more harshly penalized when they fail to display empathy. An analogous pattern emerged for candidate party in Study 2. Namely, the Empathetic Communication Effect is stronger among Democratic political candidates than Republican political candidates. Results also explore the impact of empathetic rhetoric on perceptions of candidates’ socio-emotionality and instrumentality.