Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 28, 2016--Bandwagon Effect

Among other things being underreported about both the Republican and Democratic races is the bandwagon effect.

The inclination of people to join a winning campaign in spite of having sat on the sidelines up to the time when it became clear who would win or having previously supported another candidate.

It's the impulse to support the winning ticket. To be associated with winning. Not to be left behind. In part to be able, retrospectively, to say that, "All along I was for so-and-so."

The so-and-so's in the current situation, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who, in the last two weeks have broken into the clear as frontrunners and are now self-proclaimed "presumptive nominees."

Literally, a bandwagon carries a band in a parade or other entertainment such as in the circus. In fact, the bandwagon as metaphor was first noted in American politics when Dan Rice, a famous circus clown, used his bandwagon to attract attention to his political campaign activities--he was so popular that in 1868 he ran for president of the United States!

An actual clown running for president. How unprecedented.

Some refer to the phenomenon as an "information cascade," a rush to consensus derived from the rapid spread of information about how one candidate or another is faring. This used to occur through newspaper reports and word-of-mouth as the result of what was heard or seen on radio or TV. Now, with the proliferation of cable news networks and social media platforms one can learn almost instantly what is transpiring and thus rushing to get on board before it is too late can happen rapidly.

There have been careful studies of the impact of the bandwagon effect on political campaigns. The best of these studies suggest that voters are potentially twice as likely to vote a particular way when someone is expected to win. Thus, politicians are prone to play the "expectations game." Sometimes lowering expectations to disguise a poor outcome or, in situations where expectations can unleash bandwagon behavior, exaggerating expected results.

If the bandwagon effect is now operating as a consequence of Hillary Clinton's and Donald Trump's remarkable string of primary victories, one might expect to see a quick wrap-up to both campaigns.

Keep an eye on Indiana. Cruz and Trump at the moment are running about even. If there is a bandwagon rush to Trump's candidacy, we might expect him to win on Tuesday, even with Kasich sort of sidelined, by at least ten points.

But then there's the Carly Fiorina effect . . .

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home