Political candidates spend millions of dollars honing their messages, paying close attention to language and tone, but that work may be for naught if they’re using the wrong typeface. Fonts and text stylings are perceived to have ideological meaning, per a new study in the Journal of Communication Studies.
Specifically: Serif fonts and black letters are perceived as most conservative. Scripts are considered a bit less conservative, and sans serif fonts are considered liberal. Cartoonish typeface is perceived as most liberal.
The study asked 987 people to evaluate fonts in different contexts, including these seven fonts, listed here from most liberal to most conservative:
Bernie Sanders used Jubilat in his 2016 campaign, and President Obama used a font similar to Century Gothic in his 2008 campaign. Bolded, thicker text is also considered more conservative; italicized text is considered more liberal.
The study came about after coauthor Katherine Haenschen, an assistant professor of communications at Virginia Tech, noticed lawn sign fonts. “Our results have clear implications for political campaign professionals,” says the study. “Typeface conveys ideology, so choose a candidate’s typographical identity carefully.” Font choice can also be used to strategically appeal to particular groups of voters, by making a candidate seem more moderate, conservative, or liberal.