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 Diverse audience united by similar traits/motivations, such as lack of financial savvy

Using the science of Natural Language Processing Connelly Partners and Motive Metrics studied word patterns used by these followers to reveal an audience not interested in balancing budgets.

BOSTON (March 14, 2016)– Advertising agency Connelly Partners and its partner, Palo Alto-based Motive Metrics completed a study analyzing the personality traits of the Twitter followers of the six presidential candidates. Using natural language processing to analyze posts written by Twitter followers of Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich, an audience of 16.5+ million people, the agency discovered more similarities between the followers of the candidates than differences. Republican or Democrat, Feeling the Bern or giving the Trump pledge, the average supporter of every candidate in the study have shared traits including being disagreeable, impulsive and neurotic.

But while one might expect a passionate and engaged electorate to share similar self-interest traits, even though they are interested in different positions on different issues, what was unexpected was how the collective following had a remarkable lack of financial interest, competence and savvy.

These traits/personality profiles were discovered using a complex algorithm that aggregates digital posts by people and builds trait profiles based on the word patterns each person used, a practice long validated by years of psychological research.

The most striking insight was not just that this diverse audience was so similar, but that the followers of all Presidential candidates were united by traits such as being more lavish than frugal, being not financially savvy, being price inattentive and categorized as finance novices.

This raises the question, is it worth a candidate’s time to talk about topics like the escalating federal debt north of $19 trillion, or the drag on the GNP caused by both the amount of money tied up in student loans ($1.2 billion) and the default rate on those loans (almost 12%).

“The federal debt is a figure so big people can’t relate to it,” said Steve Connelly, President of Connelly Partners. “And since they can’t grasp a number that big, they don’t understand how that debt will impact their lives and our future.”

Connelly Partners creates marketing communications rooted in Affective Empathy, the practice of identifying and aligning the values of two audiences wishing to connect empathetically. Together with Motive Metrics, the team decided to apply their methodology to a study of the presidential candidates and the general electorate, expecting to find deep divides. The results were eye opening.

Connelly advises 2016 presidential candidates that if they are going to talk about economic realities like the federal debt or student loan crises, topics of critical importance, they take the time to make that information personal and appeal to the electorate’s inherent self-interest.

“Whether you are selling a message to people or products to people, you need to have empathy with your audience.” added Connelly. “It would seem there is a bigger picture and bigger opportunity here for the candidates than they are seeing.”

Additional insights from the study include that no matter who the candidate, there are dramatic personality similarities. Although billions of marketing dollars are being spent to divide the country to gain voters, this segment of the engaged-electorate is more similar than dissimilar.

“As a psychologist, it was surprising to see so much similarity in the Twitter followers of the different Presidential candidates, given the current climate of deep political division,” said Kyle Thomas, PhD, Chief Scientist at Motive Metrics. “This data suggests that what engaged voters of every stripe have in common is that they are willing to get in the ring and fight it out for their self interest. These foundational motivations are the same, even if the way they are cashed out in specific government policies is different.”

Some differences were revealed in the study. For example, people following Bernie Sanders tend to be more passionate, careless, disagreeable, hedonistic, impulsive and rebellious than all the other candidate supporters. John Kasich followers tend to be more cautious, humble and deliberate than the other audiences.

About Connelly Partners

Founded in 1999, Connelly Partners is a full-service advertising agency that uses empathy to develop relationships and unique connections with consumers. Clients include American Express Travel, A&E Networks, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Babson College, Best Western, British Virgin Islands Tourism Board, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Massachusetts State Lottery, Samsonite and SATA Airlines, among others. The agency’s loft space in the South End of Boston is filled with 125 employees accomplished in strategic planning, creative and content generation, media planning and buying, digital strategy/execution, public relations, social media, search, branded entertainment, integrated production and analytics. Visit for more information.

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