Don’t just measure preference, measure what underlies itby Martin Boon / October 10, 2018 / Leave a comment
Maybe you’ve noticed, politics is increasingly tribal—and emotional. Anguish, hope, fury, disappointment. These are the calling cards of Remainers, Brexiteers, socialists, neo-liberals, conservatives—indeed any of us with a political label.
There is a clear problem here for political pollsters. How do the answers that our respondents provide relate to their own underlying emotional engagement? If we are measuring preference but not the emotional intensity behind it, is that harming the usefulness of our data?
We discussed a potential solution in Prospect a year ago and now know more. The key might be using an Emotional Resonance Score (ERS)—a technique that measures the speed with which people answer questions. The quicker they answer, the more belief their responses are presumed to have. At least that’s the idea.
Why should this matter? Well, if you’re a policy-maker or political spinner, you usually have two core objectives. One relates to the number of people who approve of your idea, the other, how many people truly believe they want it. If you have one without the other, you won’t truly move the public in your favour for the long haul.
There are numerous polling examples of this, where mass support was forthcoming but the lack of emotional commitment rendered answers hollow. It helps explain why Project Fear failed, why Scotland could not quite bring itself to embrace independence, and why support for “strong and stable” government collapsed.
“For the many, not the few” may suffer a similar fate. It’s a coherent message, but doesn’t yet inspire firm belief, scoring an ERS of only 20 (where “1” would be non-existent support, and “100” complete buy-in). The most emotionally secure message tested to date? “Take Back Control” with a sturdy 57.
What about policies? Let’s look at the classic: raising taxes and ring-fencing them for the NHS. Poll after poll shows support. But while in our latest test a wholesome 44 per cent agreed it was a good idea, only 6 per cent really thought it was, and the policy recorded an ERS of just three.
But governments are elected on leader attributes as much as policies. If you’re one of the 33 per cent who think Jeremy Corbyn is a credible PM, then you really do believe it, but those who think the opposite do so with equal intensity.
There’s no doubt Corbyn’s reputation is on the rise, his score on being a “credible PM” up from…