Saturday 19 April 2014

Voters swap charismatic politicians for ones they can trust

WORLD-weary and cynical Irish voters now avoid charismatic politicians.

A new study has found that Irish voters have reacted to the financial and economic crisis by switching their allegiance to politicians who are considered to be non-charismatic and even dull but hard-working and competent.

The dramatic shift is considered to be a reaction to 30 years of Irish politics dominated by the most charismatic leaders in the country's history such as Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern.

The psychology study was conducted from the University of Limerick by Warren Tierney, Dr Stephen Gallagher and Dr Anka Minescu and presented at the Psychological Society of Ireland conference.

It was conducted over 550 voter samples and examined trends such as leader preferences, issues that trigger voting, use of language and competency on specific issues.

The study found a majority of Irish voters would not support a leader solely on the basis of his or her personal charisma.


"That does seem to be a significant shift in Irish politics -- if anything, charisma seems to be a negative or at best neutral quality for voters," Mr Tierney said.

In contrast, competency, a good work ethic and honesty were seen as the qualities now considered most important in politicians.

Most voters also said they attached importance to politicians who talk about issues they had a background in, such as business or the professions.

But the study also found that voters are themselves open to psychological targeting -- particularly in the use of campaign language.

A majority of Irish voters reacted favourably to politicians who regularly used phrases such as "ordinary people" and "common good".

Mr Tierney said that the motivation for the study was his interest in the repeated use of the phrase "ordinary people" by Sinn Fein candidates.

"It tries to evoke empathy with voters and, in that, it appears to be quite successful," he added.

The study was conducted in the week before the 2011 Budget.

Irish Independent

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