BOSTON, MA – Good bad or indifferent, name recognition and the brand we know are playing major factors in the 2016 presidential election cycle.
Scared. That’s the one word 117 American voters use to describe how they feel about the possibility of Trump as president.” – Quinnipiac University Poll
Political, racial and religious unrest have resulted in high voter turnout at caucuses and primaries across the country, historically a major driving force in determining the final ballot in November.
Emotions run high
“In a political context, there’s an emotional connection between a voter and a candidate or a party,” Christopher Medici, Brand Advocate and Marketing/Communications Consultant at Medici Consulting Services of Chicago said in an interview.
“In essence, emotion is the determinant of choice, whether it’s a crisis or some sort of issue that jeopardizes (supports) the integrity of a brand. “
According to Medici, historically, American consumers whether choosing a product or candidate, look to match their own priorities and needs with those of the product or person who is the closest match.
The engaged or informed voter considers a list of priorities, cross-references the candidates’ positions, examines their history and past, eliminating those party affiliates or individuals outside the realm of consideration. The voter after considering his or her own moral, ethical and political standards delivers a vote based on the candidate who best aligns with common goals.
In the 2016 election, the opposite is true.
Both the Democratic and Republican party strongholds, although trending in support of celebrity branding, are doing so regardless of the public’s general dislike and distrust for frontrunners, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and New York real estate mogul, Donald Trump (R).
Voter sentiment spells Fear, disaster, terror
A nationwide poll released March 23 by Quinnipiac University had voters “scared” when considering a Trump presidency. “Scared. That’s the one word 117 American voters use to describe how they feel about the possibility of Trump as president, in an open-ended question.”
On the Democratic side, a Clinton presidency invoked thoughts of “disaster. “
“Disaster” is the word 68 voters use to describe their feelings about Clinton as president.”
According to the poll results, the Clinton numbers go back and forth after that: 51 voters said “good;” 49 voters said “scared;” 43 voters said “disappointed” and 41 voters said “hopeful.”
“When you look at, specifically, this election, I think it is by all accounts spilling over with emotion,” Medici said. “When you look at the Republican side, they are tapping into and connecting with people on a very emotional level, around anger. People are angry with the government. They are angry at the world situation.”
Additional poll descriptors for Trump included 46 voters invoking “disaster,” with 45 voters each for “frightened” and “terrified.” Another 42 voters said, “horrified.” The first positive word, “good,” is seventh on the list, with 36 voters.
Another Quinnipiac poll revealed the Trump name had a measurable impact on American voter attitudes. The survey of 1,451 voters measured what was termed the “Trump effect” on voter attitudes.
It was determined that polarization increased when the Trump name was added to a question, climbing as high as 23 percent in (favor) pro-Trump support and 13 percent in (opposition) non-Trump disagreement.
Example: When voters were asked if they agreed with the statement, “The American dream is dead,” with no name attached, results showed that 45 percent of voters supporting Trump against Hillary Clinton in the November election agreed strongly or somewhat, while 54 percent disagreed strongly or somewhat; and 31 percent of non-Trump voters agreed, while 68 percent disagreed.
When Trump’s name was attached to the statement the numbers jumped. Results showed 68 percent of Trump voters agreed while 30 percent disagreed; and 18 percent of non-Trump voters agreed while 81 percent disagreed.
No love in the room
Additional polling conducted over the past several months confirmed that voters do not emotionally align with party front-runners and may be acting in an impetuous fashion.
Polling showed “Trump and Clinton atop the ‘no way’ list as 54 percent of American voters say they ‘would definitely not’ vote for Trump, with 43 percent saying no to Clinton, 33 percent nixing Cruz, 27 percent saying no to Sanders and 14 percent saying no to Kasich.
Voters responding to current hot-button issues may not be considering their candidate’s durability when making their ultimate choice for nominee to the July national conventions.
“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may have the overall leads among primary voters, but there is not a lot of love in the room as a big percentage of Americans say of the front- runners they could take ’em or leave ’em,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Though short on delegates and short on time, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. John Kasich can hang their hats on the fact that if folks went to the polls today, they’d fare better than the other candidates.”
Likely voters, acting on emotion, clearly chose the two candidates with greatest name recognition, Trump and Clinton, regardless of the fact that the same pool of voters doesn’t like either candidate.
The Independent vote stands alone
Independent voters, however, are bucking the branding system. Often left out of the mix by closed and semi-closed electoral events, the fastest-growing group in the American electorate, Independent or unaffiliated voters have largely chosen an alternate path.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, drawing huge crowds at rallies across the country tapped into the Independent, youth and Millenial markets early on in the race. He continues to expand his reach across demographics.
Heading into Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary, Sanders holds an eight point lead over rival Clinton.
“On the other side, Sanders is tapping into some of that emotion, some of the anger about inequality and emotions of that nature,” Medici said. “And I think Hillary is perhaps tapping into an emotional piece of the story or an emotional connection with people around gender issues and inequality.”
While Sanders polled highest in favorability, integrity, and honesty both Trump and Clinton had negative favorability ratings. Although Clinton is ahead of Sanders in delegates, the well-liked Democratic Socialist continues to close the gap, winning caucuses and primaries by commanding leads.
With delegates and super delegates at the forefront of play on the Democratic side of the aisle, voters and party politicos may end up at odds in July.
According to Medici, each of the candidates has in their own way tried to make an emotional connection with voters.
“In the end it’s not going to be any one thing. It’s a multitude of things,” he said. “If you’ve got a good message, you’ve got a lot of money to spend and you’ve got great field operations in key states, you’re just increasing the chances that you’re actually going to win. Ultimately, the voters will decide how successful or not they are at doing that.”
This article originally appeared on Examiner.com on April 4, 2016.