There are many factors that go into a voter’s decision about which candidate for political office they are going to support. Does the candidate’s position on issues align with the voter? Is he or she someone the voter can trust? Does the candidate demonstrate leadership? Are their values similar to the voter’s?
Then there is the less weighty, but nonetheless important, issue of likeability. Is the candidate a person with whom you would be willing to break bread or have a beer? Is the person someone the voter would choose to be friends with?
Likeability is important in politics because we are inclined to vote for people we like. We might be more willing to overlook disagreements with the person if they are someone we are comfortable with.
Rex Repass, author of the MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll, said likeability is an important consideration for individuals in their decision making process.
“We use likability scales to assess voter perceptions of candidates, brands, and products. There is a high correlation between liking a candidate and loyalty to a brand, and voting for that candidate and purchasing a product,” Repass said.
With that in mind, the MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll recently asked voters how they felt about incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and challenger Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
More voters like Manchin than approve of him. His job approval number is 43 percent, but when voters are asked about likeability, the number rises to 51 percent. His disapproval number is 39 percent, but only 26 percent don’t like Manchin.
“Manchin is someone voters can relate to, which voters will take into account on Election Day,” said Repass. They will essentially be trading-off any disagreement they have with Manchin’s policy positions with how much they like him personally,” Repass added.
By contrast, the poll shows that Morrisey has a likeability issue. Just as many people dislike Morrisey as like him—32 percent. His likeability numbers are very close to his approval numbers.
But what continues to stand out about Morrisey in the poll are the unknowns. Thirty-three percent are not sure whether they approve of the job he is doing and 36 percent are neutral on the likeable/not likeable question.
Morrisey might look at these numbers and say, “You’ll like me once you get to know me.”
That’s what campaigns are about. It’s why candidates walk in parades, kiss babies, shake hands, try to empathize with voters and smile… a lot. Many of us want to meet the candidates, look them in the eye, take their measure, and then decide just how much we like—or don’t like—them. That will make a difference when we go to the voting booth.