Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The President with a heart on his sleeve

There is a debate within the study of political communication, branding and the importance of personality to voters when considering who to elect and to continue to support throughout the electoral cycle. The debate is manifesting itself in media discussions over the popularity of Barack Obama in the recent caucuses and generally in public opinion. Equally sometimes the lack of personality is argued to be an obstacle for UK PM Gordon Brown, of course he has a personality but his inability to project attractive characteristics could be problematic when an election is called. For some leaders, being open about their emotions, private lives or feelings is difficult and often seen as unprofessional, to others it is central to their public and political persona and there is little separation between private lives and political careers.

One such politician is French President Nicolas Sarkozy. His private life is dubbed in the media as The Sarko Show, particularly his quickie divorce and subsequent courtship of model Carla Bruni which has seen him embark on celebrity-style jaunts in aviator shades around the Pyramids and watching the Mickey Mouse parade at Disneyland Paris hand in hand. But this has now been taken one step further, at a press conference that included economic policy announcements Sarkozy proclaimed he was in love and planning on marriage. Using the word love (amour) several times he argued "You know the president of the republic doesn't have any more right to happiness than the average person, but no less right either." Furthermore, he is not shy about telling the media and public about both the highs and lows of his private life.
Do such things have an impact? Well Sarkozy has a celebrity-esque following and is more than simply a politician in both the eyes of journalists and, it seems, the French public. He is also using it to demonstrate he is cleaner than his predecessors who were married but had semi-secret mistresses on the go, but does this matter? Perhaps there is a sense of his authenticity through expressing feelings, perhaps it is an indicator of his humanity and, just perhaps, this means voters look at the politician who expresses his feelings and believes they are a little more real and so will make the right decisions for the normal French person. Lots of perhaps there, lots of questions all round, but perhaps when we look at politicians that are successful, then look at public perceptions of them, there may be some correlation between perceived authenticity (being real) and trust; again perhaps!!

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