US Election: Added Value reveals voters' emtional connection with candidate Brands

28 Oct 2008|Added Value

A recent survey of likely voters by Added Value, reveals the deep-seated emotional triggers that not only predict how people will vote on 4 November but explains the motivations behind their decisions.

The survey was conducted with Added Value’s Emotional Brand Connection (EBC) methodology, which has helped numerous Fortune 100 companies around the world determine why consumers choose one brand over another.
Added Value asked 2,677 likely voters across the USA to envision their daily lives two years from now under four different scenarios: with McCain in office; with Obama in office; with McCain/Palin in office and with Obama/Biden in office.

Added Value measured the range of emotions (ANGER, ANTICIPATION, FEAR, SADNESS, ACCEPTANCE, DISGUST, JOY AND SURPRISE) evoked by the imagined scenarios to calculate an Emotional Intensity Index (EII). The higher the score, the greater the emotional consequence ascribed to the outcome of the election, and the greater the motivation to vote.

“While many people predict that the race will tighten as the election draws near, the results of the survey offer a critical analysis of the emotions that are triggered in response to a particular political brand,” says Maggie Taylor, CEO of Added Value, North America. “Emotions attached to the race differ widely in intensity and type when examined along gender, age, ethnic and ideological lines, so identifying and leveraging the discrete emotional territories associated with each candidate could be a make or break strategy for the candidates in this last week.”

Overall Emotional Intensity
While everyone has more positive feelings about a scenario in which their candidate wins, Added Value’s survey found that those backing Obama are more emotionally invested in the outcome of the election than those supporting McCain, imagining a much brighter outlook for their future should their candidate win. People “definitely planning” on voting for Obama had an average EII score of 66, compared to 62 for McCain.

“Neuroscience has found that the higher the intensity of the emotion, the greater the likelihood an individual will seek out the given reward. With that in mind, this survey suggests that Obama enthusiasts are more motivated to get out and actually vote in order to attain their emotional reward, compared to McCain supporters,” says Taylor.

Generational Differences
Young voters (18-34) score 52 on the EII, while 65+ voters score 35, indicating that the emotional consequence of the election is most keenly felt by young people and decreases as voters age. This is not a “generational truism;” Added Value typically sees much smaller generational differences in emotional reactions to brands. People 65+ tend to have a slightly greater emotional connection to given brands, perhaps because they have had more time to form stronger brand loyalties, while younger individuals are more open to exploration.

The survey reveals these two groups are motivated by very different feelings, with ACCEPTANCE, ANTICIPATION and FEAR primarily pulling the generations apart.

When young voters envision a Republican win, it triggers feelings of FEAR and SADNESS; it appears they are signaling a strong desire to escape. When they imagine Obama as president, they feel a sense of trust and support coupled with ANTICIPATION. He represents destiny, freedom and empowerment.

When the oldest group of voters imagines a McCain win, they too experience ANTICIPATION coupled with JOY that creates a deep sense of optimism founded on the ideals of valued possession. Conversely, a Democratic win engenders feelings of ANGER among this age group, as if something they possessed has been wrested from them.

“The survey results reveal a clear generational power struggle, with younger voters wanting to find their voice and carve out their own place in history and older voters longing to hold onto a sense of control and order in the world,” says Taylor. “It has been said that power is never given away, that it must be taken. This could be a contributing factor in driving young people to the polls.”

Undecideds
The survey finds that if an individual is not emotionally invested in the outcome of the election, he/she is more likely to be an Undecided. Whereas the EII level for Decideds is in the high 60s, it is only 40 for the Undecideds. Some of these Undecideds are taking a keen interest in the election; some are just tuning the whole thing out. Those taking a keen interest tend to experience greater SADNESS (disappointment, pessimism, sluggishness) when thinking about the outcome of the election than those opting out, and a significantly lower level of DISGUST (feeling ashamed, stupid, naughty).

“This higher level of sadness among Undecideds who are interested in the election might indicate dissatisfaction with the choice of candidates or a feeling that the outcome of the election won’t have any impact on the country’s future,” suggests Taylor.

Men vs. Women
A sense of JOY is strongest among men – feelings of fulfillment, control, relaxation and energy – with an EII score of 40 if the Republicans retain the White House. However, women show greater emotional intensity with an EII score of 44 due to a heightened sense of FEAR with McCain in the White House. While women don’t think their lives will change much in two years, they anticipate feeling more unsure, awkward, nervous, uncomfortable, tense and scared under a McCain administration. On the other hand, an Obama win triggers feelings of confidence, of being admired and of their lives having greater importance.

Impact of VP candidates
Among male voters, the emotional voltage attached to the election is the same when considering John McCain vs Barack Obama. However, once the VP candidates enter the equation, emotions significantly intensify for the Democratic duo. Obama and Biden trigger greater levels of ACCEPTANCE (feeling confident, cool, admired, doing something important) than the McCain and Palin team.

EBC is based on the neuroscientific learning that individuals act because the consequence of that action will make them feel the way they want to feel which is determined by a range of unconscious emotional reactions.

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