Measuring In-Moment Emotional Response on Hot Button Political Issue


Traditional voter polling is often fraught with inaccuracy. The 2016 Presidential Election showcased the shortcomings of focus groups, self-report, CATI, and door-to-door canvassing, all used in 2016 to predict voter choice.  Issues with traditional polling link to voter's inability to anticipate their intended votes, along with an overall failure to articulate the emotional and often irrational drivers of their candidate preferences.

Along with unintentionally inaccurate responses, interview bias often occurs where a voter may intentionally agree with a polling question or pollster in a way that puts them in agreement with a particular politician. This interviewer bias relates to our human predisposition to be socially desirable, but it does not help to garner polls that will predict voter choice on election day.


Cutting-edge biometric neuropolling research was conducted in Dublin in the run-up to an expected critical vote in the British Parliament a new Brexit deal of 2020. 

Bellwether collected in-moment wireless biometric responses in the study, which included galvanic skin responses to measure arousal via minute changes in sweat, and heart rate to measure mental effort, as audience members watched the videos.

According to neuroscience research, emotions serve as an essential cue that frame audience response to political communication strategies for each politician.  

All audience members' heart rate and skin conductance were measured and weighted to compute a validated measurement of emotional arousal. Researchers provide a quantitative ranking of this arousal for each elected official as an aggregate score. Facial recognition software was also used to determine the direction, or valence, of this arousal as positive, neutral or negative. This allows politicians to objectively gauge their ability to resonate with an intended audience and to determine their relative score compared to other politicians. 

Along with an overall aggregate score, Bellwether's emotional arousal rankings are also typically segmented by politicians on specific campaign issues during political debates.





The researchers found that politicians from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland performed the weakest in evoking emotional arousal compared to other nations’ elected officials. of the elected leaders tested in the study, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney evoked the weakest audience emotional response with a 29.5 rating. The Fine Gael senator ranked just below Democratic Unionist Party Leader Arlene Foster from the province of Northern Ireland, who scored 30.1 as indexed by Shimmer’s biometric scoring system.

U.S. President Donald Trump and European Council President Donald Tusk scored the most substantial average arousal scores, at 38.5 and 36.4, respectively. The arousal scores measured the strength of emotional responses rather than whether voters agreed with them. However, long-standing research shows that strong emotional connections between voters and politicians make elected leaders more effective in swaying public debates and winning electoral contests.

While both Tusk and Trump aroused strong emotions, Tusk was ranked most favorable, mainly fueled by high arousal to his quote that “there is a special place in hell for Brexit promoters without a plan” and Trump the least favorable, being an established Brexit supporter.  Trump’s quote of “Brexit will be a wonderful thing” was linked to strong emotional responses from the audience.

Other politicians ranked in the study were former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, 36.4; Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, 35.0; Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, 30.86; U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 33.68; former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, 32.2; German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 32.5; U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 34.9.

This study's audience ranking of elected officials' stance on Brexit lent to an objective measure of communication strategy effectiveness on this hot-button issue.



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