Visceral Voting: The Psychology Behind Picking a Politician

Nov 22, 2016

Why do we vote the way we do? The easy answer, of course, is that we pick the politician whose values, beliefs and opinions most closely resemble our own. But while that does play a part, there are other, less obvious influences as well.

It turns out that much of why we vote the way we do is governed by our subconscious: biases we hold towards things like a candidate's height, weight, looks, tone of voice, and even choice of clothes. Campaigns have known this for years and, with every vote being fiercely sought, have employed a variety of tactics to make their candidate appeal to parts of our psyche we're not even aware of.

Since the first televised presidential debates in 1960, the political world has been ushering in a new era. For the first time, a politician's stage presence and appearance had become just as important as the substance of their message. Today, crafting an effective public image and exploiting media opportunities are more important than ever. But how far is too far?

In October of 2014, in a spectacle termed “Fangate,” Florida Governor Rick Scott initially refused to debate an opponent who'd placed a fan under his lectern, presumably to keep him from sweating in front of the cameras and audience. And in a 2010 incident, candidate Adelaide Sink was discovered using a four-inch riser behind her podium so she would appear taller during a Univision debate.

While incidents like these are comical, the importance of gaining the advantage in an election is no laughing matter. For this reason, political stagecraft and visceral messaging will help define the future of all big campaigns. In this show we pull back the curtain on what's becoming the new art and science of electability.


Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.