Psychology, voting intentions and brand implications
If you’re an agency in the marketing, advertising or creative sector generally, you are in the business of having to understand human nature. Therefore anything that helps reveal the wondrous workings of the human mind is food and drink to you.
The British Psychological Society have just published a timely summary of research findings on how psychology affects voting. Obviously this was published in view of the forthcoming general election, but the results are so interesting that they surely shine a light on how individuals make decisions generally. So when you read the evidence here you will no doubt see how many of these insights can be made relevant to brand sentiment and purchasing decisions.
In summary: People like to think they vote according to sound reason, for the good of society, or for their family's best interests. However the research shows that votes are often influenced by such things as a candidate's looks, the building used for voting in, the weather on election day or even if the seat they recently sat in was warm...
It’s a fascinating read, backed up by links to all the research details, but we thought we’d summarise it here into the twenty most revealing bullet points…
- People vote for the candidate who looks the most competent, irrespective of whether they actually are.
- Being attractive also wins votes, particularly in war time. In peace time, trustworthiness is more important. And people ignorant about the political issues are more swayed by appearance.
- People vote for candidates with deeper voices, male or female.
- Obesity is a disadvantage for female candidates, but not so much of a problem for male candidates.
- People vote for candidates they think have similar personalities to their own.
- If the voting station is in a school, voters tend to back candidates favouring education.
- If the voting station is in a church, people are more likely to vote for conservative (small ‘c’) issues. Unless there is an issue about same-sex marriages, in which case a church setting seems to increase their support for same-sex marriages. (Perhaps they are reminded by the religious symbolism, which, if the voters have some liberal instincts, galvanises them.)
- Many people suspect that their ballot choice is not truly secret, which influences them to vote according to social pressures.
- High temperatures on voting day increase the belief in global warming. And a sunny day increases votes for the incumbent political party. Minor parties do badly if the weather is poor.
- Voters blame the incumbent party for recent events even if they are clearly way beyond the control of politicians. Natural disasters just before an election, for example, are proven to be bad news for the ruling party.
- The decisions of sons are influenced by both parents, but daughters only by their mothers.
- Having an older sister increases left-wing tendencies.
- Although voters punish politicians who had been affected by a scandal (eg MP expenses), the effect is modest and less than you’d expect.
- Voters are more lenient when a transgressing politician is from a party they support, and harsh on those from opposing parties.
- A drip, drip of scandal information is more damaging than an all-at-once exposure.
- When a politician is caught up in a scandal, this improves voter memory for their policies.
- When voters are happy with life, they vote for the incumbent party. The same applies if their favourite sports team is currently doing well.
- When we’re angry, we pay less attention to the details. Whereas if we are fearful we scrutinise the information carefully.
- People who are more prone to disgust (for example they dislike sitting on a seat left warm by a stranger) are more likely to hold right-wing conservative views.
- Political TV ads are effective but short-lived. Ads with moody music and lighting are the most effective.