Emotion in politics

If you've been following our Ontario provincial election coverage, you know that we're committed to helping voters understand their subconscious biases so that they can make a more informed decision when they vote.

With that in mind, we wanted to explore the impact of personal appeals to voters. We'll use PC candidate Doug Ford as the case study.

Throughout the final debate, Ford tried numerous times to make things 'personal'. He repeatedly referred to voters as 'my friends', for example. But there is one personal appeal he made during his closing remarks that really stood out because it landed so strongly on the audience subconscious at a critical time.

In the final 30 seconds of the debate, Ford proffered a simple question to the audience, "Who would you hand your wallet over to?" While this may seem an oversimplification after careful consideration, it does make the viewer consider the question in a very specific and personal way.

When Ford asked this question, viewer emotional Connection skyrocketed to +154% above average. This is on par with some of Donald Trump's most effective moments in the final US presidential debate of 2016.

This is important, because the body of Brainsights' work shows that personal appeals are a strong communication tactic applicable across a variety of industries to drive behaviour.

Want someone to enjoy your travel blog? Put them in the moment with you.

Trying to educate someone on retirement options? Ask them how much they've saved.

Conservatives are known for tax cuts and reduced government spending. Even if you don't agree with this position, it's hard to contemplate handing your wallet to someone who you've been made to believe will take money from it.

That's what makes Ford's wallet analogy - and its timing - so effective. He's framed the Conservative position - and the deficiencies of his opponents - in a highly personal way. The impact this had on voter brains - and at this critical time in the debate - means that at a deep, neural level, this is the question most debate viewers would be left with.

Each candidate made personal appeals throughout the campaign, and there's value to doing so; complex issues are digestible when they're framed at the individual level. But personal appeals can also be designed to hijack emotions, which in turn drive decision-making. It's important to scrutinize whether these personal appeals match up with the policy, platform and product of the party in question.