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U.S. Political Party Brand Analysis Proves Revealing

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Brand Analysis Democratic Republican Brands

Given that we are in a U.S. presidential election year, we thought it would be interesting to explore the Democratic and Republican parties as brands. In particular, we wanted to understand how different types of people perceived the Democratic and Republican parties differently. We fielded our survey here on Branding Strategy Insider and elesewhere online using social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) between October 15, 2011 and April 1, 2012. 324 people started the survey and, of that number, 253 people (78.1%) completed the survey. The respondents were diverse across age, gender, household income, state of residence and political and religious affinities.

So, what did we find? First, perceptions of the Democratic and Republican parties were quite different from one another, in many ways almost opposite. And, regardless of background, most people had fairly similar perceptions of the two parties. The primary perceptions of the Democratic Party are diverse, compassionate, giving, determined and kind. The primary perceptions of the Republican Party are business friendly, determined, driven, entrepreneurial and decisive. The biggest differences between the two parties were on these attributes: business friendly (Republican) and diverse, compassionate and giving (Democratic). At an overview level, Democrats are perceived to be diverse, compassionate and giving but not very decisive, effective, entrepreneurial or business friendly. Republicans, on the other hand, are perceived to be business friendly, determined, driven and entrepreneurial but not very kind, giving, trustworthy, compassionate, collaborative, easy to work with, easygoing, selfless or diverse.

We asked people with which political party or philosophy they most identify. We did not ask with which party they are registered. This yielded interesting results. More people identified themselves as Conservative than those who identified themselves as Republican. And Independent was the second most frequent identity after Democratic. But many people also identified themselves as Libertarian, Liberal, Fiscal Conservative, Progressive, Progressive Libertarian, Tea Party and several other categories.

We also asked people to indicate to what extent they agreed with different statements. We took those statements from the political platforms of parties as diverse as the Tea Party and the Green Party. The highest rated statements/beliefs were generally universally popular across party lines. They are (in decreasing order of popularity):

  • In personal freedoms as long as those freedoms do not harm others
  • We must aggressively pursue alternative energy sources to reduce our reliance on foreign oil
  • America will only remain strong as long as it has a strong middle class
  • Politicians are corrupted by large corporations and other special interests
  • Education is the most important driver of our country’s long-term success

The lowest rated statements/beliefs are:

  • Most people on welfare are lazy and do not want to work
  • Income taxes should be substantially reduced or eliminated
  • Most people are selfish and don't care that much about others outside of their friends and family
  • The USA was founded on Christian values

Most people take a dim view of politicians. All of these personal beliefs scored high:

  • Politicians are corrupted by large corporations and other special interests
  • Most politicians are self serving
  • Most politicians lie

The greatest variation in response occurred for the following personal beliefs:

  • The USA was founded on Christian values
  • The federal government is spending too much on social programs
  • Market driven decisions are more beneficial than government driven decisions
  • Income taxes should be substantially reduced or eliminated
  • The primary role of the federal government is security and defense

So, what are the implications of the study?

  • All political parties would do well to talk about personal freedoms, although they may be defined in different ways by different people (freedom to practice one’s own religion, right to bear arms, control over one’s body, etc.). The statement included “as long as those freedoms do not harm others.” Different people will have differing perceptions of what harms others (radical, fundamentalist religions, concealed weapons, abortion, etc.)
  • Pursuing alternative energy sources is almost universally embraced. All parties would do well to embrace this, although it might mean clean renewable energy to some and increased fossil fuel extraction in the U.S. for others. An objective long-term national energy policy independent of special interests would be welcomed.
  • People generally believe a strong middle class is necessary for a strong America. Being a champion of the middle class is a winning strategy.
  • The Democratic Party would do well to be more business friendly. The Republican Party would do well to be more compassionate. The Republican Party would also do well to embrace additional diversity.
  • The Republican Party will struggle with different factions with different agendas. Social and fiscal conservatives are quite different in their beliefs and priorities.
  • Political parties will struggle as long as people do not trust politicians to represent them (versus special interests).
  • Despite party polarization, there are a significant number of people that do not fit the belief profile of either major party, such as the group of people who are fiscally moderate to conservative and socially moderate to liberal. New labels are emerging to describe this variation in beliefs.
  • The most substantive issues seem to be the following:
    • Which is better at meeting the needs of the average U.S. citizen, markets or government? Or put another way, what is the optimal balance between the two?
    • What should be decided and managed at a federal versus local level? For instance, education is generally perceived to be important to our country’s long-term success, but at what level of government would it be most effectively managed?
    • What is the right balance of spending on social programs versus security/defense? This was the single biggest difference between Liberals and Conservatives. Liberals believe social programs require more emphasis and defense programs less emphasis while Conservatives believe just the opposite. Progressive Libertarians are the ones who hold the strongest belief that we are spending too much on security and defense.
    • Finally, Conservatives and Progressives have hugely opposing views on whether the USA was founded on Christian values. 

To view the detailed charts in a PowerPoint presentation, contact us.

Sponsored byThe Brand Positioning Workshop

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