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Political Marketing And The Modern Age

How have election communciations been changing? What can we say about political marketing and the modern age?

The US Presidential Election of 2016

With a couple of colleagues, Joseph Ryoo and Alina Nastasoiu, I wrote a chapter in a recent review of the US Presidential Elections in 2016. (We could have just published a one-word book reviewing the election. “help” but academics like to use unnecessary words. Would ‘Don’t Panic’ be better?)

The book has a bunch of interesting chapters discussing such things as market research, micro-targeting, Hillary Clinton’s appeals to moderates, and, of course, lots on Trump and Bernie Sanders. Our chapter discusses primaries. We note the fascinating strategic problems that these pose. Appeal to the base first, then, only shortly after, try to appeal to the wider electorate. The primary voters also often have a fascinating challenge. Should they go for electable candidates — candidates who they think are more likely to win the Presidency for their party — or the candidate they personally prefer. I was one of many who thought the Republicans would never choose Trump. I thought he would be considered just too unlikely to win the Presidency. Did the Republican base know more than the rest of us? Or did they just ignore electability and get lucky? (Can the Trump victory be said to be lucky?)

Analyzing Elections

We do some analysis of the Facebook and Twitter feeds of the primary candidates. For example, Trump showed a great focus on “America” and “safe”. We note how primary results don’t do a great job of predicting general election success. Being exceptionally strong in a state in the primary doesn’t count for much. Primary success typically doesn’t mean a candidate is especially likely to win it in the Presidential contest.

Not Much Of A Relationship: Primary Vote Share Doesn’t Really Predict GE Vote Share

What I personally find fascinating is what the 2016 primaries say about party management. Trump and Bernie certainly did better than expected. They did this despite being almost hostile to the (establishment in the) parties they sought to represent. If parties can’t control their nomination processes this makes party branding exceptionally difficult.

This means a party brand may need to be reinvented each election cycle.. which is likely to cause massive confusion among the voters….From a campaigning standpoint. lack of centralized control over nominees could create greater challenges in identifying party voters.

Bendle, Ryoo and Nastasoi, 2017, page 77

I’m not expecting everyone to shed tears for political marketers. (We all have bigger worries post the 2016 elections). Still, the lives of political marketers can only be made more difficult by Trump’s unlikely success.

What can we say about political marketing and the modern age? It is challenging.

For more on political marketing see here, here, and here.

Read:  Neil Bendle, Joseph Ryoo, and Alina Nastasoiu (2017) The 2016 US Primaries: Parties and Candidates in a World of Big Data, in Political Marketing in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Ed. Jamie Gillies, Palgrave Pivot

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