Action: Does the candidate have a comprehensive, realistic, well-considered plan for solving the problems facing the country?
Compassion: Does the candidate care about all the people? (A nod and a note to one of our alert readers: Attributes and values approximating liking, bonding to and seeing the candidate as being "someone like me" and "for me" resides in this driver along with concern for people.)
Perception: Does the candidate have a deep understanding of the problems facing the county?
Resolve: Does the candidate have the strength and leadership to guide the country?
While the order of the drivers and the expectations voters hold for each driver varies by political affiliation, the affect of speeches, debates, TV commercials, sound bites, finger-pointing, plans, smears, hopes and dreams can all be measured, revealing significant changes in the perception of a candidate. The particularly nice thing about real engagement measures is that they include psychological measures, so reactions are tempered by how much voters actually believe what the candidate is saying.
We are able -- just like B-to-B and B-to-C brands -- to calculate an index of how well a candidate meets, or even exceeds, the expectations that the electorate hold for the office of the president. The indices are benchmarked against 100. In the first week of October, aggregate Democratic, Independent and Republican ratings for the president were: Ideal President: 112; John McCain: 107; and Barack Obama: 111.
Candidates' positions, presentations, and postures all matter, and after last night's presidential debate, the assessments of the candidates -- and their performances -- were Sen. John McCain: 110; Sen. Barack Obama: 116.
There's a complex formula involved in translating the index numbers to voter preference percentages, but on the basis of these scores, we estimate that Mr. Obama should be ahead in the polls by 15%. So he's the brand more voters are buying. Today. Still there's nearly a month before election day and, as many other "brands" have discovered, consumers can be demanding -- and changeable. But with engagement metrics they're not unpredictable.
When you're a presidential candidate, standing up and having your positions aired in front of millions of people is a risky business. But, as Adlai Stevenson noted, "In America any boy may become president and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes."
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Robert Passikoff, Ph.D., is president of Brand Keys.