What’s in a Font?: Ideological Perceptions of Typography
Tamul, Daniel J.
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Although extensive political communication research considers the content of candidate messages, scholars have largely ignored how those words are rendered – specifically, the typefaces in which they are set. If typefaces are found to have political attributes, that may impact how voters receive campaign messages. Our paper reports the results of two survey experiments demonstrating that individuals perceive typefaces, type families, and type styles to have ideological qualities. Furthermore, partisanship moderates subjects’ perceptions of typefaces: Republicans generally view typefaces as more conservative than Independents and Democrats. We also find evidence of affective polarization, in that individuals rate typefaces more favorably when perceived as sharing their ideological orientation. Results broaden our understanding of how meaning is conveyed in political communication, laying the groundwork for future research into the functions of typography and graphic design in contemporary political campaigns. Implications for political practitioners are also discussed.