Likeability and Inspiration: How Politicians Win Over Undecided Voters

By Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.
August 31, 2021 Updated: August 31, 2021

In every election there are the existing staunch party supporters, but there are many who are undecided, and that’s who the parties target most in their campaigns.

Jacqueline Biollo, a principal at Aurora Strategy Group, says that for undecided voters, party policies are the caboose while personal impressions drive the train.

“Much of an election outcome is decided based on a candidate’s image or impression, single issues next, and party policies last. Canadians are quick to judge. Many seem less interested in researching issues or considering more than one side of a situation to form their opinion or cast their vote,” Biollo told The Epoch Times.

“Canadians are likely hesitant to elect a party whose leader lacks charisma and composure to lead the country.”

Comedian Rick Mercer said on his CBC Television show in 2017: “It is a political truth in this country that we do not elect governments. We like to throw governments out.” Daniel Bernier, senior consultant at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, agrees that the desire for change is a substantial motivator.

“What will sway them to go to vote, unfortunately, more often is voting against something than voting for something. So, are they happy with the record that the Liberals have?” Bernier said in an interview.

“When you have to defend something that you’ve done in the last five years, six years, it’s not always easy to do, because there’s a track record of what you’ve done—or what you have not done.”

Bernier said he has recently started to see anti-Trudeau bumper stickers on vehicles between Montreal and Quebec City. Ironically, he believes some people will vote against the Liberal leader because they did not want to vote at all, less than two years after the last election and during a pandemic.

“They don’t see the point. Why do we need to go [to the polls] again?” he said.

“If at any point there’s some ballot issues or some events—even from candidates or from the leaders—that cannot take place because of the pandemic, then this will have a ripple effect.”

Bernier says such momentum can become its own force. Trendy popularity or the desire to vote for a party headed for government factor into the emotional and mental decision-making process.

“[Momentum] does have a major impact. … There’s a bit of momentum on the NDP, so that’s to watch. If the trend stays it could be a very different 905,” he said of the Greater Toronto Area.

“People like to go vote for people that are inspiring. … People went to vote for Jack Layton because they liked the guy, and I think that this is what Jagmeet [Singh] is trying to reproduce again. And [Erin] O’Toole has been quite positive during the campaign, I find.”

Biollo agrees that likeability and inspiration are definite electoral assets.

“Once they like you, then they’ll trust what you are selling,” she said.

“People vote for someone when they are inspired by a candidate’s personality or charisma, impressed by their experience or expertise, and can align their beliefs with the stated platform or campaign priorities. People vote against the incumbents they hate for much the same reason, although from an opposing position. They no longer, or never were, inspired or impressed by the incumbent and did not [or] do not align their beliefs with those of the incumbent.”

Intangibles aside, the issues do remain important so long as they impact a voter personally and not by some abstract concept of the national interest.

“If I’m a swayable voter … even though federal candidates and federal platforms speak to all Canadians, I want a candidate to speak to me and a platform that has realistic objectives and outcomes that impact my day-to-day living,” Biollo said.

“There’s likely frustration, anger, and confusion that goes on in the minds of a non-political person who still cares enough to vote but wishes the government would just get on with implementing changes that will positively impact their lives.

“Action, not words, is how you get them to vote for you.”

Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.