Voting in 2020 will be more emotional than previous elections. Here is how to connect.

Advertising. It has been around a long time. For centuries, ads have targeted our emotions in hopes of eliciting a response to products, services, and people. Promotional ads can be seen on Egyptian papyrus dating back thousands of years. Political ads were found within the ruins of Pompeii. Advertising is, and always will be, inescapable. And with the speeding rate that technology is evolving, advertising has become harder to ignore and much more personal.

While opinions differ on how to create effective advertising, all agree that targeting emotions is the primary goal. “Advertising”, Don Draper proclaimed on AMC’s Mad Men, “is based on one thing: Happiness…Freedom from fear.” While Don is correct that many ads are created to make people feel joy, this is not always the case in the world of politics. In our world, advertising typically plays to one of three emotions: fear, anxiety, and enthusiasm – yet traditional political polling does not seek to figure out what emotions voters are feeling toward a candidate, issue, or in general so such targeting can properly occur.

Political ads change the way voters get involved and the ballot they cast simply by using words, images, and music to spur emotion. It is key that campaigns in 2020, in order to be successful, understand how voters feel, not just think. Once campaigns understand that fear, enthusiasm, and anxiety all lead to separate actions, they can acknowledge and tap into those emotions needed to win their race.

Research has shown, for example, upbeat and positive ads about a candidate evoke a sense of enthusiasm in voters, reinforcing their prior beliefs about that candidate. An enthusiastic voter will more likely be happily voting for the same person they did previously.

A negative ad created to spark fear in the imagination, on the other hand, causes voters to question their prior beliefs about a candidate. If a voter is repeatedly shown an ad that creates a sense of fear, they begin to wonder whether or not this ad is true, which causes uncertainty in their choice of who to vote for. This fear is often followed by research with hopes to uncover facts that prove their feeling is not merited.

Finally, advertising that causes a sense of anxiety often stops many voters in their tracks altogether. Don’t want your opponent’s voters to show up at the polls on voting day? Run ads that stir anxiety and research says there is a good chance that anxiety turns to indecision leading to the voter not voting at all. 

So how can a campaign use this knowledge?Campaigns mistakenly continue to spend more time speaking to logic – rather than emotions. Given the current state of the economy, campaigns in 2020 must take a new approach to understanding voters, vote choice, and issue positions by quantitatively analyzing voter emotions at scale. Issues only matter as much as the actual emotions that drive people to care about those issues – therefore, campaigns should seek to understand the “why” not just the “what”. The answer? Emotive Analysis surveys.

Cygnal Political Emotive Analysis dives past the logical brain into the heart of what voters are feeling, not just thinking.  Using proprietary advanced text and sentiment analysis, we are able to quantitatively ascertain the emotions around candidates, issues, and the general environment. We then walk clients through the deployment of these findings into the messaging needed to win their race. We work in conjunction with the leading political psychologist in the United States to ensure that your team will be a few steps ahead after talking to our team. *

If you’re wondering how to pivot your messaging to connect with voters on an emotional level, let’s talk. Our team is on standby, ready to brainstorm ideas with you.  Our mission is to provide you with intelligence for action so you have all the tools – especially the emotional ones – to be successful.

* Our team at Cygnal was feeling pretty good about our IQ levels until we met this psychologist. Continue to follow along here as we discuss all things campaigns in 2020


Cygnal is an award-winning national public opinion and predictive analytics firm that pioneered multi-mode polling,peer-to-peer text collection, and emotive analysis. Cyngal was recently named the #1 private Republican pollster by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, as well as the #1 most accurate polling and research firm in the country for 2018 by The New York Times. Its team members have worked in 48 states and other countries on more than 1,100 corporate, public affairs, and political campaigns.