What Won the Election? Likability Emerges as the Real Winner

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Now that the election was over and the winner is declared let’s analyze what was the biggest factor after all the rhetoric, all the negative ads, all the verbal posturing, that really made a difference.  I go back to my previous post (see 11/1/12) where communication skills determined the winner correctly.  It really is largely about visual impression portrayed and likability.

Romney and Obama were neck and neck on height (standing tall and looking presidential), on blink rate (acting presidential with composure) but likability won out in the end as Obama is just more likable to more people than Romney is.  Obama won the popular vote, granted it was a slim margin, but still he won.  While it may be simplistic to say that the popular vote is simply a popularity contest, there is no doubt that likability factors in when unconsciously swaying the undecided.

We have to like people in order to trust them, and we really want to trust our leaders.  Without trust we are lost and without likability there is little trust.  We may like somebody that we don’t necessarily trust, but there’s nobody that we trust that we don’t like.  Likability is really the foundation of all relationships on a very deep level, even on relationships with national candidates, who most will never personally meet.

 We buy products from salespeople that we like, even when we may rationally know that another product is the better choice.  Still we take the lesser product because we like the person selling it and rationalize our choice as to why the lesser qualities of the product are an OK tradeoff, rendering the decision as acceptable.  We ‘buy’ the rhetoric that a politician is ‘selling’ because we really like him better.

After the election, the media pundits were talking about how this close election reflects a deeply divided country along party lines.  They claim that the voters pushed one party out of office in favor of the other party in local elections.  That is simply not true.  The average voter does not go to the election polls with the thought of pushing one candidate out of office primarily due to their political affiliation.  The common man casts his vote based on individual likability of each candidate

Certainly some people vote strictly along party lines, especially if they don’t know either candidate running in a local election and they see two unknown names; the easy choice then becomes party affiliation.  But many voters think independently and vote for who they like regardless of which political party the candidate professes to represent.  And when both candidates are unknown, many times the voter will simply not vote for either.

The candidates representing political parties don’t always act the way they ‘should’ – they don’t always vote along party lines.  They think about the issue at hand and do the right thing, letting their conscience not their politics guide their vote.  Likewise the average voter is changing and voting more based on what they know about the candidate’s previous behavior – i.e. who they like – instead of strictly due to the party the candidate belongs to.

The media makes a bigger deal of things than needs to be.  With their round-the-clock coverage stating a “bitterly divided country” they do more harm than good, making more of the situation than is necessarily real.  The media can escalate a situation and by so doing structures public opinion about the intensity of a story; it must be important because “everyone is talking about it” – with ‘everyone’ of their own creation.

How much more helpful would it be for the country if the media would instead focus on language that repairs the aftermath of the close election rather than accentuating our differences, and using language like “bitterly”.  How many really “bitter” Americans are there, compared to the many?  Most people are just going about their daily lives without true bitterness towards one man who didn’t personally cause their current circumstances. 

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  While it may be overly simplistic to say that likability was wholly responsible for the election results over political stands and behaviors, note how much a person’s stands (agreeing with yours or not) and behavior contributes to their likability in a person’s estimation.  Is it truly a stretch to say that likability was the major contributing factor?  Certainly you may vote for someone who you don’t necessarily like, either along party lines or because you agree with their stand on an issue that is important to you, but that is the minority.  The larger pool of undecided voters used the unconscious likability factor at the polls on Tuesday, and Mitt Romney, the more unlikable candidate, loss both the popular and the Electoral College vote.

Feel strongly about this topic?  Comment below!


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