Friday, August 24, 2007

That perception thing

The book that all sensible political strategists are reading [Drew Westen's The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation] concludes that "people vote for the candidate who elicits the right feelings, not the candidate who presents the best arguments." And in an assessment of US politics argues that there is a fundamental problem with the emotional appeals created by the candidates, and in particular the Democrat Party. The problem is the use of negativity and appeals to fear and prejudice. Western argues political communication "can just as easily be appeals to their hopes and dreams, their sense of shared fate or purpose, their better angels, or their sense that there might be someone who genuinely cares about their welfare and has what it takes to restore it." This, Western argues, in a Guardian review of his book, is why Bush beat Gore, Bush appealed to the little man while Gore had the big picture and the statistics.

Hard to say exactly how accurate this picture is, but it is hard to say it is wrong in anyway; but as the strategists within Westminster and Whitehall devour Weston's argument will this herald in an abandonment of the negative ad and fear appeal or will the cheap shot remain the silver bullet of political advertising?

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