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Is America Even Engaged In This Presidential Election?

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Is America Even Engaged In This Presidential Election?

According to a new Engagement IQ™ study conducted by Koski Research, if the Presidential election were held today, Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump by just 3 percentage points (39% to 36%), a statistical dead heat. A Koski survey of 1,002 Americans from May 31 – June 1, 2016, also shows that in a matchup between Democrat Bernie Sanders and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, Sanders would defeat Trump by 14 percentage points (47% to 33%). Twenty percent or more of Americans in this survey say they will not vote for either candidate in Trump vs. Clinton (21%) or Trump vs. Sanders (16%) scenarios, or that they will not vote at all (4%).

These findings are part of a proprietary, semi-annual Engagement IQ (EIQ) study by Koski Research that examines brands, celebrities and politicians in order to identify specific positive and negative attributes that drive consumer (and voter) behavior. Koski’s EIQ seeks to test new research theories and learn more about four measures of interest and willingness to engage, including:

  • Likeability – do you see the person or brand as positive or negative? Arrogant, secretive, dishonest, thoughtful, hip, or smart?
  • Lunchability – would you have lunch with this specific person or brand?
  • Postability – would you post or share something about them on Facebook?
  • Readability – would you read an article about them?
     

Engagement IQ results are expressed in terms of positive or negative rankings, with a higher positive score indicating that the public has a greater degree of connection with the subject. Tracking people and brands since 2014, Koski’s new EIQ data offers further insight into today’s political landscape, including:

  • Bernie Sanders is the most likeable candidate, which drives his Engagement IQ score of 25.6 – the highest among this presidential candidate set. His score is due to performing well on smart and thoughtful, while scoring low on the negative attributes of secretive, dishonest, and arrogant.
  • Hillary Clinton earns a negative 2.6 rating because of a low “likeability” score. Americans in this study see her as dishonest and secretive. Clinton also does not excel in key behaviors of “lunchability,” “postability” and “readability.”
  • Donald Trump is viewed most negatively, with a negative 5.2 rating, primarily driven by a very high score on arrogance. Koski Research first tracked “The Donald” in 2014 when he scored a negative 20.2 on the EIQ scale, marking him as the least-liked person or brand ever in the EIQ.
  • President Obama scores very well in the Engagement IQ, with a positive 21.3 ranking, leading across the board for the key behaviors of “lunchability,” “postability” and “readability.” Obama also scores highest on hip, compared to current candidates.
     

The data illustrate that performing well in emotion- or behavior-based metrics can drive engagement and action – but that the Holy Grail in terms of making the cash register ring or getting votes – is for brands or candidates to meet both practical and emotional needs. Achieving this delicate balance is something that politicians appear to have difficulty with, especially when compared to beloved celebrities or favorite brands. For example, the all-time Engagement IQ leader among people in the news is Ellen DeGeneres, with a positive score of 46.1, more than doubling President Obama’s EIQ rating.

This year’s race for President is a compelling spectacle, and our framework shows that Americans’ emotional engagement with political figures is important in their voting behavior. Our Engagement IQ was designed to advance industry dialogue around brand engagement. Our examination of the candidates shows that, as with brands, people base decisions on a combination of emotional and practical needs. What works in the marketplace, works in the voting booth.

As part of exploring the intersection of behavior and emotion for the EIQ, Koski Research also probed voter feelings associated with key political figures, including joy, excitement, trust, sadness, fear and betrayal. Notable results include:

  • Almost half of Americans (47%) feel fear when they think about Donald Trump, while 32% feel fear of Hillary Clinton
  • Among Democrats, the fear factor for Trump is at 61%, at 46% with Independents, and at 30% among Republicans
  • Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama score highest on trust, at 40% and 38%, respectively, while 22% associate trust with Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump comes in last at 18%
  • President Obama most often is associated with joy (22%) with Bernie Sanders essentially the same 21%, while Clinton (13%) and Trump (12%) trail
  • 45% have feelings of betrayal when they think about Hillary Clinton, followed by President Obama at 34%. Donald Trump comes in at 26%, while only 7% of respondents associate betrayal with Bernie Sanders
     

Despite Donald Trump’s largely unfavorable ratings on fear and trust, nearly a third (31%) of Americans say they would prefer to sit next to him on a long economy class airplane ride, versus the other politicians in the survey. Trump is virtually tied with President Obama, at 30%. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were seen as less desirable seat mates, with only 24% wanting to sit with Bernie, while Hillary came in at only 13% as a flight buddy.

In a close race like this, a voter’s gut feeling can make all the difference. A candidate’s ability to engage with voters on an emotional level is likely to make a big difference between getting those voters to the polls to support their candidate, versus just staying at home on Election Day. When it comes to the presumptive candidates for the November election, the question is whether Trump’s perceived arrogance and the feeling of fear he engenders are bigger liabilities than Clinton’s perceived dishonesty and feeling of betrayal.

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