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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Political projection 2012: A year of angst for elected officials

Observation:   Consistent followers of this site know that I try to avoid the topic of partisan politics.  But a collection of recent stories makes the topic difficult to ignore, as the collective coverage of voter satisfaction is an interesting case study for consumer sentiment and corresponding behavior.

In today’s Washington Post, there was a story about the sharp divide between those who think the Obama administration is doing a good job (click to link).  Earlier this week, the same newspaper ran a story with the headline that only “84% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing” (click here to see that Washington Post story).

Last month, both the Washington Post and the New York Times ran stories about the high person incomes of members of Congress, relative to the constituents they represent.  Click here to see the Post story, and if you prefer the New York Times version, click here.

Also last month, USA Today ran a story about the general disenchantment of voters—from both parties—and the significant number of people who no longer consider themselves a member of the party they were aligned with in 2008.  Fully 2.5 million voters have left the Democratic and Republican parties since the last general election.  Click here to see that article.  

Implications:   An election year is seldom a cordial, polite thing to witness.  But with the apparent discontent of voters with regard to both the White House and Congress, as well as the candidate-driven rhetoric that is only likely to escalate as the 2012 campaign moves forward… this year is likely to be particularly messy.  

Will voters (aka consumers) be impacted by it?  Or will they simply begin to ignore it in greater numbers?  Is the move away from their political party driven by anger with the policies or ideology of that party, or the tactics their party has employed to further those platforms?  Could we be seeing a period when, politically, "the party is over?"

Based on the feedback I’ve heard—in the press and from informal interviews we’ve been doing all over the country over the past year—voters are focused on things like jobs, economic stability, deficit reduction, and income equality.  It will be interesting to see which (or whether any) candidate connects with those themes successfully. 

Does your company, product or service represent an escape from all of the election noise?  Does your messaging communicate that you understand the challenges your customers face right now, and you have ways to help?

Many consumers are focused less on the macro economy of the U.S. these days, because they realize they have little control over it (even at the voting booth).  But they have taken matters into their own hands, managing their micro-economy (their household finances) much differently than they did just a few years ago.

Are you in touch with those realities?  Does your company, product or service resonate with their new priorities?  Have you explained how… to the consumer you serve?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

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