The Rhetoric of Parliamentary Debate

TitleThe Rhetoric of Parliamentary Debate
Publication TypeUnpublished
AuthorsGoplerud M, Knox D, Lucas C

 We develop a novel theory as to why MPs engage in rhetorical conflict in parliamentary debates. We contend that doing so helps differentiate their party from their rivals and create a coherent and distinct party label. Given these incentives, we expect rhetorical conflict to vary with the public visibility of the debate and the status of the speaker. To test this theory, we leverage recent methodological developments in the analysis of audio and video as data. With an original corpus of New Zealand parliamentary debate videos, we use the recently developed Speaker Affect Model to measure (1) the mode of speech---either calm or conflictual---used by the speaker and (2) the presence of heckling in the chamber. Our results show that more prominent party representatives tend to deploy more conflictual speech and are the target of more heckling. Moreover, clashes are less frequent in technical stages of debate, where they may undermine cooperation on specific issues.