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What is Pandering?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 23, 2024
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Pandering is the practice of adapting public statements and actions to fit the culture within a given group of persons. Essentially, pandering is intended to placate the individuals who make up the group, and allow the speaker to make a connection with the group as a whole. Pandering is a technique that is employed in a number of different professions, notably politics.

One of the most often cited examples of pandering is the political hopeful who is running for election. In order to win, the politician must be able to garner enough support from voters at the time elections are held. This often means attempting to win the support of more than one subculture within the populace. As a result, politicians will employ the art of pandering in order to attract the attention of a wider variety of people.

It is important to note that the art of pandering does not necessarily mean to engage in telling untruths. Often, pandering involves carefully selecting verbiage that will be interpreted favorably by the audience, or that provides no more than a partial understanding of an opinion held by the speaker. Essentially, the panderer focuses on subjects that are important to the audience at hand and seeks to earn their favor without actually rendering a full opinion or committing to a focused course of action.

The practice of pandering may also include an approach of accentuating the positive while giving little or no attention to subjects that are likely to hold the attention of the intended audience. Factual information is presented, but only selected data that will create a favorable impression with the listener. Any facts with the potential to anger the audience will be carefully avoided.

Pandering is not limited to the political arena. Much of the work of public relations efforts for entertainers, sports figures, and other public celebrities involves carefully choosing the right subjects and right words to fit the occasion and setting. Businesses will often employ pandering techniques to overcome negative public perception of a product or the company proper. Even loved ones may pander to friends and relatives from time to time, in an effort to spare feelings or shield a loved one from bad news.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Historical Index, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By BrickBack — On Jun 20, 2011

@Sunshine31 - I agree with you. I think that the very definition of pandering leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. For example, how can you be prolife and then prochoice. It is virtually impossible to have had both political opinions because they have diametrically opposed viewpoints.

When politicians change their minds on fundamental issues like this it always leaves me a little suspicious of their motives. It always makes me wonder if they just conducted a political poll and determined that one opinion is more favorable than another.

Pandering like this really has such a negative connotation that it really plays into the negative stereotype of the average politician.

By sunshine31 — On Jun 19, 2011

I know what you mean and I think that it is disgraceful when anyone uses children in order to pander to the public. I have seen a lot of political ads and speeches that seem to really define pandering.

Sometimes too much pandering can backfire and make a politician appear weak, because pandering to a certain segment of society does alienate other segments of society so you never really win. This is why a politician that stands firm in what he believes in and doesn’t change his political opinions to suit the audience that they are speaking in front of always stands out. They realize that not everyone is going to agree with them, so they don’t try to change anyone’s mind and people respect them for it.

By anon115944 — On Oct 04, 2010

Is the use of young children's images and activities, especially facial expressions, in political campaign ads "child pandering" and possibly illegal. There seems to be a growing number of these ads during the 2010 political campaigns.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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