Today, more than ever before, voters are increasingly sophisticated about political salesmanship and overly skeptical of the political message and the message drivers. Voters now outright reject conventional political packaging and instead are now attracted to authenticity. The public doesn’t demand total agreement with the message ― they demand total sincerity from the messenger. Candidates must cross a new threshold where they are judged more for the integrity of their convictions and core beliefs than for the specific issue or policies they advocate. In this new environment, issues are an important metaphorical backdrop, but are not the primary field of battle.
Far too often political consultants use polling as a tool to define the issue terrain. Irrespective of individual candidate’s strengths or weaknesses the campaign then unfolds based on a misguided belief that an election is as much a referendum on policies and issues as it is a judgment on individual candidates, values, and character. Under this scenario, voters are purely logical beings, armed with a wealth of information about the candidates’ positions, will understand the issues at stake in the election, comprehend subtle differences between candidates on the important issues of the day, and make rational decisions by comparing their own issue positions to those of the candidates – if only that really was the case. Obviously, it’s a slight exaggeration to say consultants follow only the rational issue model, because no one ascribes to only one philosophy. And some in the Democratic Party do indeed talk the talk when it comes to acknowledging the importance of values, character, and narrative in political messaging. But we have found that when it comes right down to it – when it comes down to making decisions about how to poll and what kinds of ads to cut and what kinds of messages to disseminate ― old habits die hard and all too often Democratic consultants fall back into the old familiar paradigm of the issue-driven campaign. And while yes issues matter, Americans are first and foremost values oriented voters and consumers. Values matter most.
We know good polling doesn’t put its finger to the wind to find the most convenient current issue frame for a given candidate. We believe good polling must understand the values and convictions that drove a candidate to get in the fight in the first place. Good polling understands a candidate’s core principles, and endeavors to connect those principles with the core values that drive voters. Good polling works to uncover how best to shape a narrative – about a candidate, about voters, about government, and about the problems they face – that touches people on a visceral, intuitive level. Good polling helps a campaign to craft a clear, simple message that everyone can easily understand and articulate. These are the services that brilliant corners is uniquely suited to provide in both the political and corporate space.