Purdue expert: Obama, Romney appeal to different voter emotions

September 10, 2012  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As the presidential campaign intensifies, Democrat incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will appeal to different voter emotions, says Chris Kowal, an assistant professor of consumer science at Purdue University.

Obama's message appeals to the emotion of hope, while Romney's message appeals to the emotions of power and security, says Kowal, who, as part of his work with consumers, studies the communication of emotions.

He says these were among the emotions the candidates drew from their audiences at their respective conventions.

"Obama challenged Democrats to become part of a movement, while Romney asked Republicans to focus on how to recapture the reins of power to secure the future," Kowal says.

He says those appeals are important because voting is an emotional process.
"We vote based on attraction, connection and message. We then justify our choice through a cognitive process, looking at the issues," Kowal says.

He says this is more likely to hold true in a presidential race than local elections. "On the local level, the process is likely to be more rational. The needs of the community take precedence over personality."

Kowal says the Democratic convention displayed what he calls "the emotional contagion."

 "A lot of delegates were crying during Obama's speech," Kowal says. "That's because once a few started crying, the emotion spread around the convention center."

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu

Source: Chris Kowal, 765-494-9245, ckowal@purdue.edu

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