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Candidate Image. “Electoral victors are those who excel at projecting imagery and symbolism, but not necessarily those who offer substantive expertise, political experience or pragmatism.” Iyengar. Candidate Image.
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“Electoral victors are those who excel at projecting imagery and symbolism, but not necessarily those who offer substantive expertise, political experience or pragmatism.” • Iyengar
Candidate Image • Kenneth Hacker, an expert on political images, considers a candidate image as a sort of total impression of a candidate held by a member of the voting public • Includes issue beliefs as well as personality considerations
How important is image? • Experts debate the importance of pure image vis-à-vis other vote influences such as political party and issue stands, but most acknowledge that it is a significant factor in vote choice • Greater for the less-well-informed
“Some critics of American electoral politics have lamented the fact that images have supplanted the meaningful discussion of issues in contemporary campaigns. Image-dominated campaigns are faulted for oversimplifying issues and confusing voters.” • Hollihan
“Studies have consistently demonstrated that candidate images are very important predictors of how people will vote” • Hollihan • “The fact that voters now are more likely to make their own choices between candidates has been cited as at least partly to blame for the increasing dependence on image-dominated political campaigns.” • Hollihan, p. 83
Why is political image so important? First, it has been found that voters react better to personal perceptions of the candidates than to objective reality (Sears, 1983). According to Sears (1969), "persons represent unusually simple stimuli, easily cognized and retained“ (p.364). Second, perceptions of candidate traits provide individuals with a good way to organize all the daily information that becomes available about political issues (Kinder, 1986). Kinder also suggested that personality traits are seen as stable over time, and by ascribing traits to their political leaders, individuals have some basis for gauging the reaction of their political leadership to future demands of their office.
Image dimensions • Homophily • Traits • Honesty • Intelligence • Independence • “With regard to trust and integrity, research suggests that voters are very sensitive to a candidate’s physical appearance.” • Hollihan, p. 94 • Self-deprecating humor appreciated by voters • Non-verbal behaviors • Sensitive to candidate age
Charisma • “ability to project confidence, enthusiasm, optimism, goal-orientation, inspirational leadership, and compassion” • Hollihan, p. 98 • “may also be one who conveys a warm and friendly image, show seems genuine and personable, who is comfortable speaking, and who has the capacity to speak from his or her heart—or at least has can make us so believe” • Must be appropriate to the situation
Political image • Party identification • Ideological commitments • Issue positions • Linkages to other political figures or interest groups • Personal image • Age • Intellectual abilities • Speaking style
Source: August 28, 2008 Obama Still Lags McCain as Leader, Commander in Chief: Obama’s strengths lie in domestic, softer issues by Frank Newport available at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/109891/Obama-Still-Lags-McCain-Leader-Commander-Chief.aspx
Source: July 16, 2010 Palin's 76% Favorable Among Republicans Tops Others in GOP: Former Alaska governor's image more mixed among all Americans by Frank Newport
National Adults • Republicans/ Lean Republican • Democrats/ Lean Democratic • % • % • % • Personal Qualities • Honesty/straightforward • 33 • 30 • 34 • Integrity • 10 • 13 • 7 • Good moral character/family values • 5 • 8 • 2 • Intelligence • 5 • 4 • 6 • Honorable • 4 • 5 • 3 • Trustworthy • 4 • 4 • 5 • Christian • 3 • 6 • * • Common sense • 1 • 1 • 1 • Charisma • * • * • 1 • Total percentage of all mentions(Note: Results could overlap among some respondents.) • 65 • 71 • 59
Voters are especially interested in the issue of trust and the honesty of the candidate
How are images developed? • Image consultants • Advertising • Pro-candidate • Anti-opposition • Careful staging of public presentation • Events (may or may not be under candidate control) • News coverage • Popular culture • Comedians, etc.
“In plying their craft, political consultants (whom we refer to as image handlers) take a rather formulaic approach to crafting candidate images. Typically, polling is used to identify salient issues on the minds of voters. The next step is to assess which of these issues play to their client’s advantage. A campaign strategy is then devised to prime the audience on those issues, deploying images, symbols, and phrases that will connect the candidate to those issues in the minds of voters” • Grabe and Bucy
“While critics of modern campaigns sometimes argue that candidate images are molded like clay, candidates generally do not conjure an image from scratch. Rather, candidates present themselves selectively to emphasize their personal strengths and deemphasize their weaknesses.” • Steger, Candidate Image
Managing the visuals • Candidate appearance • Hair • Clothes • Environment • Where photo-ops occur • Who the candidate is with • Symbols
Candidate Image • http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/story?id=6057246&page=1
Three major types of candidate image bites Statesman Populist Sure Loser • Grabe and Bucy
Media choices • Variety shows • Placing spots • Exclusives to journalists