Who's the toughest of them all?

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The Independent Online
Brian Walden asks nearly twice as many tough questions as David Frost. That, anyway, is the view of Dr Peter Bull, a psychology lecturer at York University who has closely studied the political interview. He has identified 35 separate verbal tech niques used by politicians to evade questions. Now in his latest unpublished research he has measured the comparative toughness of different interviewers. The table gives the proportion of each interviewer's questions that are "tough". Dr Bull classifies a question as tough if all possible response options would put the politician in a negative light in some way in the eyes of others.

The analysis is based on interviews conducted with the three party leaders during the 1992 general election. The three leaders were also interviewed by Jonathan Dimbleby, but, according to Dr Bull, no fair comparison could be made since Jonathan Dimblebyasks far fewer questions than any of his rivals.

"His style is quite different," says Dr Bull. "He relies more on a dialogue than a question-and-answer format."

Dr Bull's next research will examine whether interviewers are biased in their approach to different party leaders.