Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Voters' Personalities and Ideal Party Personality. Evidence from Poland

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Voters' Personalities and Ideal Party Personality. Evidence from Poland

Article excerpt

Introduction

A party which has just entered the political market needs to undergo a series of adjustments which will make it attractive for a potential voter. Many of these modifications have been defined by marketing professionals, in particular by researchers specialising in creating brands or personalities of product and service brands. Researchers find analogies both between consumer and voting behaviour as well as between the political market and the consumer market (Newman, 1994; Lock & Harris, 1996). The objective of this paper is to make an empirical attempt at reflecting a popular concept of brand personality within the realm of voting behaviour. The fundamental assumption underlying all further considerations is that voters perceive political parties in terms of features which are characteristic for people. As such, the parties are then assigned unique identities.

Both the "personality" of the ideal political party as perceived by the respondents and the personalities of the party's voters were diagnosed, since many studies confirm that the perceived similarity to a politician in terms of personality traits (Byrne, 1965; Caprara, Barbaranelli & Zimbardo 2002; Vecchione, Gonzalez Castro & Caprara, 2011) and the supported views and ideas (NewComb, 1961; Rokeach, 1973; Fraley, 2007) is a significant variable in the determination of voting preferences. However, the vast majority of research to date has concentrated on politicians only. Thus, the present study can contribute to a better understanding this phenomenon.

A brand can be seen as a tangible or intangible characteristic that represents and communicates information about the functional and symbolic benefits of products, services or ideas (Aaker, 1997; Arvidson, 2006). Consumers, through recognisable brands, assign products with a system of meaning and concepts, thereby granting them certain values that make the product distinct from the others. On the political market a party will gain value and importance in the eyes of the voter if it is treated as a brand (de Chernatony & White, 2002). Political parties should be rooted in public consciousness; they should be recognizable as identifiers of certain ideas, they should have an ethos the voters can identify with, and finally, they should have tradition and experience, based on which voters can anticipate the party's next moves. By creating an analogy between a political party and the brand, we can transfer the mechanisms used for creating a brand over to the political party, along with all the positive anticipated outcomes, which the brand brings about. The branding of a political party is important in light of building voter loyalty, which mobilises the electorate during an election; it also rationalises voters' decisions and emotions, provides for easier understanding of the goals of a political party and distinguishes a party from other political actors (see Smith, 2001; Schneider, 2004; Needham, 2005; Lees-Marshment, 2009; Scremin, 2007). Moreover, Catherine Needham (2005) points out that voters' perception of the political party in terms of a brand reduces the psychological costs of participation in the electoral campaign and the election. This is primarily associated with the fact that the brand in itself carries some information on the product, hence it shortens the time of exploration needed to find information on the political entity. It makes the political product more accessible within the respondent's cognitive field. In the voter's opinion, decisions made on the basis of attachment and loyalty are less risky and involve positive beliefs and attitudes such as credibility, confidence in better future and the belief that the promises made during the electoral campaign will come true.

One way to create a brand in the mind of the consumer is to give it a personality. The adoption of the idea that brands, companies or shops can be evaluated using personality traits, made it possible to use the achievements of personality theory in the analysis of brand personality (Pilch, 2012). …

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