“People’s feelings influence their choices more than logic”

“People’s feelings influence their choices more than logic”

Savik Shuster about why Ingrida Šimonytė had no chance to win.

Savik Shuster’s interview with the Lithuanian newspaper “Lietuvos rytas”

Author - Birute Vishnyauskaite

Gitanas Nauseda’s victory in the presidential elections in Lithuania was predetermined, because he evoked more positive emotions among voters than his rival Ingrid Simonite. This was proven by an unusual new study.

International journalist Savik Shuster, president of the Open Mind Foundation, a research fund, conducted the first-ever study of the emotions of Lithuanian voters. He began studying mass emotions in the early 2000s, when he began to host some of the most popular talk shows in Russia and Ukraine. The popular TV host began his work analyzing the emotions of the live audience in his studio, where the most acute problems of the country were discussed. Over time, he improved his research method and decided to apply it to election forecasting.

Savik Shuster’s method of studying mass emotions made it possible to accurately determine that actor Vladimir Zelensky would win the presidential election in Ukraine, long before voters went to the polls. 

Savik Shuster:

 - The method is based on the fact that we measure the emotions of the masses; they most strongly influence the results of voting in the presidential elections, because the presidential campaign is closely connected with the personality of the candidate. It is important to understand the reasons why people vote one way or another. That is, to catch the direction of the public’s mood. If we recall the presidential elections in Ukraine, the first poll revealed that Yulia Tymoshenko evokes fear among 33% of Ukrainians, and causes 33% to feel humiliated. Only the remaining third of the voters feel hope. That is 66% negative emotions! Such indicators are no longer breakable. They would have had to have been broken not during the election campaign, but over the past 5 years, when she was in opposition. A serious politician needs to know the people's emotional attitude all the time, and not - three or four weeks before the elections.

Birute Vishnyauskaite:

- How is it that politicians do not think about such things on time?

Savik Shuster:

I would say that they think traditionally and conservatively. They cannot understand that a new era has arrived. Today, people's feelings and emotions are more important than the rational component. This is mostly dictated by the fact that we all have become very closely interrelated by information. We all know about each other, thanks to social networks and new technologies. People communicate with each other much more than with the authorities. If we are talking about horizontal connections between people, they have never been so close. Emotions in such communication begin to prevail and become the main factor affecting people`s choice. And politicians, at age "45+", still go to the people with their messages in the spirit of "increase it or improve it ..." And people no longer perceive it. Today it is necessary to appeal to voters in a completely different way. In addition, people of different ages and people living in different places should be treated differently. Because in various regions, different mass emotions prevail: this is a different perception of authority and attitude towards the distribution of the budget and [attitude] to the issue of war and peace ... The exception is made by politicians like Vladimir Zelensky. They’ve worked all their lives on stage or in front of cameras. All their lives, they’ve tried to evoke emotions. They understand the feelings of people.

Today, this is very important: understanding the feelings of large groups of people.

I call it the emotions of the masses. Also, there are the elites, this is a very important component of society, they can be creative, but they can also be destructive. In some countries there are many, in some - less. For example, in Ukraine, the elites are connected with oligarchs, and with very big money. But in the last five years, other elites have appeared in Ukraine: volunteers who spontaneously unite and go to defend their homeland, volunteers who help them. In addition, a new anti-corruption elite has emerged. These are young people with a new way of thinking. They all have different hopes, but they are united by one emotion. I call these emotions collective.

The creative elites drag people along. They infect the people, and then the emotion from the collective turns into a mass one.

In this sense, a modern politician would have to create an elite around him who share his views and values. He must infect this elite with a common emotion. And then this elite will “infect” the people with a positive emotion. In this case, the election result will be what the leader seeks. Otherwise, nothing happens. If politicians seek power only for the sake of money, they will not be able to convey any emotion.

You can say: “Before the second round of the presidential elections in Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonytė fans simply blew up Facebook with their emotions, but Gitanas Nauseda still won.” The fact that Facebook was bubbling meant nothing. When I saw was that for a huge number of people, the name Ingrida Šimonytė is associated with humiliation, because they believe that she will protect the interests of those who surround her and her party (although she is non-partisan and declared that she is an independent candidate), but not the interests of the people - it immediately became clear to me that she had no chance. As soon as I saw such an indicator, I immediately realized that she wouldn’t be able to get anywhere. Gitanas Nauseda did not have this at all. It was clear to me that Ingrida Šimonytė was not only losing, but that she was lagging behind very significantly. Šimonytė failed to evoke even a single positive emotion that would allow her to compete with Nausėda. There was an emotion connected with the fact that she would fight for social justice. But a huge number of people believed that Nauseda would do the same. At the same time, he had far fewer negative [associations] - indices of humiliation and fear were record low. This I have not seen even in Ukraine. In total, Šimonytė had a ‘negative’ rating of about 30%. But Nauseda’s negative was less than 10%.

Both were equally - "hard to say." It is also necessary to pay attention to this. And another thing: they are almost equal in terms of the “least evil” indicator. Almost the same number of people believed that both Nauseda and Šimonytė were the least evil among the two candidates. But I repeat: Nauseda evoked fewer negative emotions among the people. It is a demonstrable fact that after a person wins an election with the indicator “least evil”, after a while people become disappointed in him.

Those people who voted for Zelensky in the second round [of Ukraine’s presidential elections] who were motivated [by being] “against Poroshenko” are now disappointed. Firstly, because they see the influence of the oligarch Kolomoisky on Zelensky. They also see that he is an inexperienced politician. These are the results of our serious sociological research, and it has all been confirmed. There is no experienced team around Vladimir Zelensky. Therefore, all appointments that have taken place at the present moment are not convincing. The people who voted for Zelensky, solely to get rid of President Poroshenko, are beginning to feel disappointed. I think that in the Parliamentary elections, Zelensky will have a much more modest result.

- Do you think that he will lose with his party?

- He will not lose, because in Ukraine there is a tendency to vote for the winner. But looking at what is happening now: Zelensky`s party will not get more than 30%. And if it continues like this, it may be less.

 - How do you think, what should Nausede do in order not to lose the trust and positive emotions that the people feel toward him?

  - We should not forget that the powers of the president are limited in Lithuania. Therefore, he needs to form a government, for which he will be responsible too.

- But he will approve the ministers of the new government by himself.

- Yes, and they must be absolutely flawless people. Such people who can do what is necessary for the people. And I see that people in Lithuania, firstly, need social justice, and secondly, need to fight against corruption. The people who voted for Gitanas Nausede do not care much about the country's foreign policy.

Link to the original interview.

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