The Affect Effect in the Very Real World
of Political Campaigns
In the solar system of campaign politics, practitioners are from Mars. Academics are from Venus.
Although campaign professionals and academic researchers devote huge amounts of time and energy to developing a better understanding of this mutually fascinating field of study, deep-seated suspicions based on background, methods, and ideology have kept these two communities unnecessarily separated from each other. More problematic is the disparity between the goals set forth by the two groups: a researcher wants to learn, and a practitioner wants to win. The fact that these two goals are not mutually exclusive and actually contain significant areas of overlap is rarely noticed.
Even more problematic is the barely concealed disdain that the two groups hold for one another. Campaign managers and strategists tend to dismiss those who study politics as an academic pursuit as little more than ivory-tower idealists whose attitude toward political campaigns is obscured by unrealistic idealism and excessive distance. Academic researchers and theorists, for their part, are just as likely to look down on campaign practitioners as poorly educated vocational workers more likely to make decisions based on tradition and superstition than on empirical evidence.
All in all, this is not a promising landscape in which collaborative effort and mutual learning can occur. This mutual misunderstanding invariably leads to a cultural gap that has historically blocked the ability of these two communities to work together, to learn from each other, and ultimately to create a better political product. But as someone who has devoted portions of my professional career to pursuits on both sides of this unnecessary barrier, I firmly believe that both professions can benefit greatly from some effort toward reconciliation and cooperation.