On January 30, 2016 the The Moines Register presented the results of the much-awaited Ann Selzer’s (a.k.a. “the best pollster in politics”) poll. She placed Donald Trump with a 28% leaning among likely Republican caucus goers in Iowa, while Ted Cruz appeared in second place with a 23% preference (and third in the second choice option). 48 hours later results showed that Ted Cruz received 51,666 votes (27.6% vs. Trump’s 45,427, 24.3%) thus awarding him 8 delegates for the National Republican Convention.
A lot has been written about Cruz’ triumph and the meaning for Donald J. Trump’s vocal Presidential bid. However, and important element of analysis has been left aside: How personality traits interact with other social identities to shape political preferences and influence the vote.
Cruz’ campaign did what has been done by almost every political campaign in the world: organise rallies, underline his superiority, present him as an honest family man and a resolute leader, but there was a fundamental twist in Iowa, his campaign was designed around a key element: political psychology.
Based on a careful segmentation of Iowa’s populations’ personality traits Cruz was able to frame his political messages with a consistent appeal to emotions, the affect effect.
This result is great news for political psychology and those of us who believe in our science. As for the US I very much hope that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders learn the lesson and understand the importance of having a political psychology consulter on their side.
Carlos A. Rivera, PhD.