Have Voters Grown More Cynical Or More Sophisticated? Depends On Who You Ask

WASHINGTON, DC -- Given the shenanigans of the past couple of years, I’ve begun to wonder whether voters are beginning to check out of political media and marketing altogether. So when MediaPost hosted some of the leading practitioners in the field here Tuesday, I asked them what they thought.

“They’ve gone from skeptical to cynical to concerned,” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a leading analyst and political commentator.

“I don’t know if advertising will play a role in alleviating that concern or exacerbating it,” he continued, predicting that much depends on how the incumbent President uses advertising -- or not -- as part of his reelection campaign.

“It will be interesting to see how Donald Trump does advertising in 2020, given that he did so little in 2016,” Steele said. He recalled how the aspiring presidential candidate did little, if any, paid media advertising and as the case proved, didn’t really need to.



Steele also speculated that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report could be the wild card of 2020 “campaign messaging,” depending on what his findings produce and how voters and candidates react to it.

During a subsequent interview by my colleague, MediaPost conference director Steve Smith, Patrick Stevenson, Chief Mobilization Officer of the Democratic National Committee, expressed a different take. Stevenson called the party’s supporters, “much more sophisticated,” and willing to take matters in their own hands in terms of volunteering and canvassing — and not just at the national level.

He contrasted the party’s current supporters with those in 2014, which were much more passive and reactive to what the DNC and Democratic candidates asked of them. By comparison, he said supporters were "really nitty-gritty in terms of what the DNC was doing.

“The degree to which this is different vs. four years ago cannot be overstated,” he stated.

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