digital and politics

Neuro science, Politics, Digital marketing- Connect ?


There’s always a debate about whether humans take decisions in a rational manner or go by intuition? Honestly, there is no one right answer to this question and various theories have attempted to answer this and there is constant evolution happening in this field. In the process of understanding this, researchers and economists have found how the decision making unit of our brain works and how is it getting influenced. This helps us explore the area of politics and how politicians use it to their advantage.


Neuro science for politics



Let’s take a look at what triggers people to form perception in the first hand. Daniel Karnehman in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” says, People create perception when they see a stranger at first glance and those perceptions are based on two things- Dominance and Trustworthiness and these judgement are formed just by seeing the facial expressions. Adding to this strangeness, our brain respond to impressions, the more a word is shown, our mind stops viewing it consciously, it rather believes it to be true and positive.

Also, the dominance of conclusions over arguments is most pronounced where emotions are involved. What happens is that people allow their likes and dislikes to determine their beliefs about the world. This phenomena is referred as affect heuristic and marketers use this vulnerability to their advantage. This is what psychologists refer as “AFFECT HEURISTICS”. And, the brain is adept at finding coherent causal story that links the fragments of knowledge at disposal. This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.


heuristics - politics


Now, all of this- how is it related to politics? Answer lies in the research of Alexander Tordov, Princeton professor who has done extensive research on people’s choices in politics. Before reading further, take few seconds and think about how we made our electoral choice.



In the survey, people were asked about the characteristics they look for in the ideal leader, it was found that competence was the single most important attribute. Now, whether the competence is determined intuitively or was there any rationale behind it? Tordov showed pictures of random faces of men for less than one-tenth of second and asked people to rate them on their competence. The pictures shown were not random men but were politicians running for elective office. Results of the survey showed that in 70% of the cases, the winner was the one who had received higher ratings on competence. This shows that people who think they have made rational decision choices in electing politicians to office, partly the decision is driven by their instinctive decisions.

Now the billion dollar question- How digital media helps politics leverage on the above insight?

Let’s get a look at some quick facts about few social media platforms

Facebook- 170 million

Twitter- 23 million

Smartphone users- 350 million




digital and politics


What can politicians infer from the above facts?

Social media gives the political parties the reach and access to millions of potential voters. BJP has understood this long before other political parties did and that gave them a competitive advantage during the recent state elections as well as in the 2014 general election.

 Digital marketing is not about uploading party’s pictures without any reason but a highly targeted communication activity. For example, BJP positioned itself as a party that focuses on “Development and Governance”. The credentials of Mr.Modi giving the people of India a reason to believe in that value proposition. It followed a two pronged approach- One is covering the first time voters (Youth of the nation) through twitter. This was followed by spreading the brand “MODI” among the Indian masses through Facebook.

Sample Case study:


If we try to look for reasons on why BJP made the Prime Minister the face of the campaign, partly because of the “AFFECT HEURISTIC” mentioned earlier which says that people let their likes and dislikes determine their beliefs about the world. This is the reason why some section of people supported demonetization without understanding the economics behind it! (I was also one of them a few months back:P and now I support it after knowing a bit more about it) And, this not only holds true for BJP, even regional parties like ADMK,DMK, SP, BSP have all used this theory either knowingly or unknowingly to attract voters. Political parties also can leverage option of YouTube and Facebook live for their new scheme launches creating more impressions thus altering the perception among people.

Power of Digital:

Digital marketing is not about getting likes and re-tweets but about publishing the right content in the right media. Right example would be the way our external affairs minister leverages the power of twitter to address queries. In the process, it  has created impression among public, increasing competence rating, affect heuristic coming into play again!


Example of digital and politics digital and politics


The recent addition in the digital marketing family is Quora in which political parties explain their achievements. This again is a targeted approach of providing a rational answer to the questions giving people a reason to believe.

Like we saw earlier, our brain is adept at finding coherent causal story linking the fragments of knowledge at disposal. This provides the exact environment for political parties to share fragments of knowledge people are expecting to hear!

In short, digital marketing helps you get closer to your target audience and supply them with information that they are expecting, making them believe that they are making rational choices!