Hindsight is a wonderful thing but looking back at recent elections, it’s clear as day that candidates like Hillary Clinton, Bill Shorten and Jeremy Corbyn were unlikeable and not going to win. That’s not to say that Trump, Morrison and Johnson were the most likeable choices; it’s more that when looking to make a change, the power of hate, dislike and disdain are difficult to overcome. It’s also further proof that even when we’re told to vote for the party rather than the leader, it’s the leaders’ likeability that ‘trumps’ the view of the party.
In the U.S. and UK, there was a distinct lack of trust for both Clinton (fuelled by the FBI investigation) and Corbyn (fuelled by the media narrative). For Shorten, his unpopularity as Opposition Leader was akin to Corbyn’s performance in the polls but pundits still clung to the belief he would win the un-loseable election. The data was there, always was there, yet there was the widespread belief that people who look past their dislike of the leader.
We’ve written before about the branding of politics and what parties can learn from brands. In our work, we hear often that brands want their consumers to love them; to have that unbridled affinity and affection but do we need to go that far in our relationship to get the results any brand wants. Is liking enough? In the brand world and what we quantify, likeability has always been linked with trust, which makes intuitive sense – when you earn the trust of your consumer, it’s easier to like a brand. And when you like a brand, you’re going to be more open to do what they want you to do.
At The Interpreters, we talk a lot about delivering the functional and emotional benefits, and getting that balance right. It’s when you can drive the perception or the reality of both benefits, you can build trust and be liked. It’s right and left side of the brain triggers -knowing that the right side of the brain is where you have the feelings and the emotions, whereas facts, logic and linear thinking appeal to the left side.
Research has been done looking at how the sides of the brain respond when it comes to politics and voting behaviours. A dominant left side of the brain will see you more likely to vote conservatively. You can take the emotion out of the equation and detach your personal emotions – Johnson might have lied about things but look at the alternative. Unlikeable. In contrast, the right side of the brain looks at the bigger picture, supporting policies that work for the greater good of the nation.
Both sides work differently as well – the left side focuses on one thing at a time (I cannot get past having to vote for Corbyn), whereas the right goes all in (I don’t like him, but I like his policies, but what is socialism, is it socialism, can I look past it all, it’s all too much, there’s so much going on in my mind).
So with all these things going through the voter mind, maybe prior to the election the following questions should have been asked
1. Do you trust [candidate]?
2. Do you like [candidate]?
And when there’s a resounding no regardless of the candidate, change the measurement tool?
1. To what extent do you trust [candidate]?
2. On a scale of 1-9, how likeable is [candidate]?
Regardless of the country or the past vote, perhaps the lowest of the low scores might have been a more effective way of determining the least unlikeable leader and future leader? Right or wrong? Left or right? When it comes to voting, it’s not as simple as you think.
By Paul Dixon