Attacking Ethos: The Rhetorical Use of Uncertainty In the 2004 Election

Theron Allen Verdon


The rhetorical use of uncertainty in political communication (and other areas) has many implications. Uncertainty plays a major role in everyday life. Therefore, it likely plays a major role in political decision-making. Research has shown that uncertainty about a candidate affects a voter's voting preference. Uncertainty usually affects voter decisions. Uncertainty was a factor in the 2004 presidential election. The Bush-Cheney campaign used uncertainty to corrupt the ethos of the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry. The Bush-Cheney campaign rhetorically manipulated information about Senator Kerry to create a perception of a leader whose actions revealed an unpredictable flip-flopper. A lack of clear prediction caused one major effect. People lacked a desired sense of certainty and consistency in a leader during uncertain times, and an increase in uncertainty caused a decrease in identification. In the 2004 presidential election the Bush-Cheney campaign used strategic uncertainty to attack Senator Kerry's ethos.