December 17, 2020

Poltiical messaging’s secret sauce: “Cluefulness”

A large fraction of political messaging fits a single, underappreciated frame, which for lack of a better name I’ll call cluefulness. The idea is to take the well-established word “clueless”, give it the antonym “clueful”, and note that a huge fraction of political messaging amounts to:

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December 17, 2020

Seven categories of political messaging

Electoral politics are confusing. Many candidates, issues, events and voter subgroups interact with each other. Reliable data isn’t nearly sufficient for us to confidently tease causal factors apart. So any discussion of political campaign strategy relies, at best, on educated guesses. Here are some of mine.

I believe that voters’ decision factors can largely be divided into seven categories. The six more obvious ones are:

In a companion post, I argue for adding a less obvious seventh category:

As generalities, I think this all holds true across different countries and eras, and even describes citizens’ views of non-democratic authoritarian regimes. But the specifics obviously vary by time and place. Read more

September 16, 2018

Fear, anger, loathing, shame and disgust

This post is part of a series focused on political persuasion. Others in the series are linked from an introductory overview.

Marketing, persuasion and decision-making have a lot to do with emotions. Often, especially in politics, those emotions are negative.

In discussing that, it is common to focus on one or two particular kinds of emotion. Steve Bannon and Barack Obama both talk about “fear and anger”. I blogged last year about fear, and in a companion to this piece have written about outrage. But in this particular post, let’s acknowledge and partially disambiguate a broad range of negative motivations.

0. One complication arises immediately, in that words describing negative emotions may have multiple important word senses. For example: Read more

September 16, 2018

Accusations of recklessness or insufficient caring

This post is part of a series focused on political persuasion. Others in the series are linked from an introductory overview.

Much political messaging boils down to “They don’t care (enough)”.  Indeed, that theme is central to:

At the highest level, this is obvious.

As in so much else, debates about “caring” often hinge on credibility/confidence and/or importance. Read more

September 16, 2018

Patterns of outrage

This post is part of a series focused on political persuasion. Others in the series are linked from an introductory overview.

Present-day politics are commonly governed by negative emotions, such as fear, anger and disgust. So says conventional wisdom, and I agree. Analyzing these surging emotions is difficult, but here’s a framework that I think could help:

A huge fraction of significant modern politics boils down to outrage at patterns of events.

1. My best argument for focusing specifically on outrage is this — political issues sort roughly into three buckets:  Read more

September 16, 2018

Patterns of political persuasion

This is the introduction to a multi-post series on political persuasion. Other posts in the series are linked below.

Politics, we keep hearing, is partisan, emotional, “tribal” and generally devoid of rationality, with voters who are essentially impossible to persuade. There’s much truth to that — but it can’t be the whole story! Election outcomes are not all foreordained. Campaigning and other political persuasion do actually influence political outcomes.

How does this influence work? While a complete exposition is obviously beyond the scope of this blog, I think we can cover substantial ground.  Read more

March 19, 2018

Modifying beliefs

I assert:

Indeed, there are at least two major ways to change the strength of people’s ongoing beliefs, namely by influencing:

I think this framework has considerable explanatory power.

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March 19, 2018

Five categories of persuasion

For multiple reasons, it is hard to change people’s minds. In particular:

Yet tremendous resources are devoted to persuasion, meant to change or confirm people’s beliefs as the case may be. That’s the essence of such activities as marketing, religion, education, and political campaigns — not to mention blogging.  I.e. — despite the difficulties, persuasion is widely (and of course correctly) believed to be possible. Let’s explore how that works.

Most persuasion and mind-changing, I believe, fits into five overlapping categories, which may be summarized as:

The first two are discussed below. The next two are discussed in a companion post. I’m still trying to figure out how the last one works. 🙂 Read more

February 15, 2017

Stoking a fear and promising a fix

I’ve been insistent that everybody needs to pay attention to politics now, which is being conducted with greater cynicism than technology marketing ever could be. But in this particular post, political and technology marketing (among other kinds) are compared on a more even basis.

Donald Trump:

This is actually a time-honored pattern, pursued by (among others):

While fear-and-fix is a powerful strategy, it’s not easy to pull off, because it involves establishing both sides of a partial contradiction:

Approaches to resolving this paradox typically fall into one or more of three buckets:

Let’s consider some examples. Read more

February 8, 2017

Donald Trump’s politics in one song

Donald Trump’s favorite musical is said to be Evita, the story of the fascist/populist couple Juan and Eva Peron, who guided Argentina from status as a rich country to being pretty much of a third-world wreck.* Isaac Butler wrote about that back in November, but he missed a key point. More precisely, he missed a key song, whose lyrics I shall copy below. (I think this is one of the rare cases in which printing a song’s entire lyrics is clearly fair use.) Emphasis added.

*In real life, Juan Peron was vastly more influential on his country than his second wife Eva, not least because he lived much longer. But the musical portrays them as more equal partners, giving her great credit for his original ascension to power.

Art of the Possible Read more

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