Frontal Cortex has an excellent post on the near futility of election coverage and why people tend to vote with what they feel, rather than what they know.
The piece reviews a whole range of studies that have highlighted possible non-issue influences on people’s voting preferences, from the weather to the facial expressions of news presenters.
One other line of research has found that facial structure can predict leadership, allowing people to reliably pick out business leaders or political winners just from a photo of their face.
Advertisers have long known that marketing products on the basis of facts is a lot less effective than marketing on the basis of appeals to emotion, desire and self-image.
While this is often labelled ‘sex sells’, ‘you-can-be-sexy sells’ is just as widely used.
Traditionally, this avenue has not been open to political candidates since it leaves the candidate open to the emotional counter-attack of accusations of impropriety.
After seeing the popularity of the ‘Obama Girl’ video, it struck me that the internet opens up this avenue, as supporters not officially associated with a candidate can now make their own wide-coverage sex sells promotions without ‘sullying’ the name of the official party machine.
As Frontal Cortex notes:
The problem, as political scientist Larry Bartels notes, is that people aren’t rational: we’re rationalizers. Our brain prefers a certain candidate or party for a really complicated set of subterranean reasons and then, after the preference has been unconsciously established, we invent rational sounding reasons to justify our preferences.
Link to Frontal Cortex on ‘Rational Voters?’.