POTUS Election Hindsight: Emotions Mattered Most

Like many others, we are curious about how the 2016 election predictions could be so different from the election results. To help understand these differences, we have gone back to our own Koski Research Engagement IQ data on the candidates to see what 20/20 hindsight might reveal. The result is: emotions matter.

As background, in 2016 we conducted two waves of research among the U.S. general population on the candidates. This research included our Engagement IQ metric, which is made up of key engagement attitudinal characteristics and behaviors. In our June wave, Clinton was slightly ahead of Trump in our Engagement IQ, though both had negative Engagement IQs.

As of October right before the election, both candidates had improved. Clinton was in the lead and had a positive Engagement IQ.

These October scores, though better than June, were still relatively low. These continued to be driven in large part by negative engagement characteristics. Hillary Clinton was seen by Americans as dishonest by 55% (Trump 45%) and as secretive by 54% (Trump 29%), while Trump was seen as arrogant by 70% (vs. Clinton 33%).

To help us further understand engagement in decision-making, we included a battery of six core emotions in both waves of our research. When it comes to emotions, Americans associated high negative emotions and low positive emotions with both candidates. We found that the Fear Factor was high for both candidates, with Trump much more often associated with fear than was Clinton.

On the flip side, Hillary lost the Betrayal Battle. Younger generations felt betrayal when thinking of both candidates. But older Americans (Gen X and above) and both genders more often had feelings of betrayal when thinking of Hillary Clinton than when thinking about Donald Trump.

Regardless of your politics and how you voted, the election result in the context of this research suggests that Americans were in some emotional turmoil. Although the popular vote is so close and still in debate, Americans seem more inclined to overcome perceptions of dishonesty, secrecy, or betrayed compared to arrogance and fear.

This 20/20 hindsight is a reminder to us all in the business world to remember our basics of brand engagement: emotions matter. Engaging your markets on an emotional level that leads to trust is even better.