Branding in Politics Fact or Fiction

Political branding is always something that intrigued me as in some ways it is one of the purest forms of marketing.  Those in politics are wise to understand the principles of positioning, brand development, and consumer brand marketing. In fact, getting a politician elected might be the ultimate marketing/branding challenge. In my blog Political Parties should have Marketers run their Campaigns, I discussed the importance of marketing strategy in politics

However one thing that has always intrigued me with political campaigns is that branding and positioning, although planned by political parties, are not always truthful and sometimes rely on old inaccurate stereotypes of a political party and/or their philosophy. For example one of the most popular ones is that Liberals are tax and spenders and Conservatives are great fiscal managers who are very careful about spending.

If you ask the public to describe the difference between Liberals and Conservatives, inevitably one of the things they would mention is the issue of spending and taxes based on this stereotype.

So as a little experiment, I decided to find out if there is any truth to this notion of Liberals are spenders and Conservatives are “fiscally prudent. Here is what I found.

 The worst deficit spending in Canadian history is a Conservative legacy, not one of the Liberals according to Steven Pate.  The Conservatives have been in power under 2 Prime Ministers in the last three decades. In both cases they showed an alarming record of deficit spending. When Brian Mulroney took office, the Canadian debt (adjusted for inflation) was about $250 billion. In ten years, the Conservatives almost tripled our debt to $630 billion. It took the Liberal government another 12 years to pay down that debt to $500 billion. After a brief respite, the  Conservatives are back into deficit spending, with our debt on the rise again.

In the past few years, under the Conservatives, the number of public servants has soared, government spending has skyrocketed, and the deficit has bulged. Some of these results – spending and the deficit – are due to the severe recession, to which the government responded, as did governments throughout the Western world.

But even before the recession, the Conservatives had shown themselves to be big spenders, allowing government spending to rise about 6 per cent yearly. This spending, combined with lower taxes, did away with the large surplus the Liberals had bequeathed the Conservatives. Source

In the USA, most people believe that Democrats are big spenders and that Republicans are tight-fisted. The evidence leads to a very different conclusion. Since 1970, spending has grown 64% faster when a Republican sits in the White House than when a Democrat does.

In the twelve years that a Democrat has sat in the White House, spending has increased at an average rate of 1.29% per year; during the 22 years of Republican presidencies, government spending has risen at an average rate of 2.12%. In other words, spending has grown 64% faster when a Republican sits in the White House than when a Democrat does.

During the 20 years Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress, spending has grown at an average rate of 1.84% per year, more than double the average rate of 0.89% per year during the six years the GOP ran Congress. (During the other eight years, when control of Congress was split between the two parties, spending grew at an average rate of 2.52%. The split-control years all occurred during Republican presidencies.)

When Democrats controlled the White House plus both houses of Congress, spending grew at 1.70% per year, slightly below the average growth rate of 1.83% for the entire period.

The slowest spending growth occurred when a Democrat sat in the White House and Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. Spending rose by an average of just 0.89% during the six years of this situation, which all occurred with Bill Clinton as president and Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House.

During the 14 years Republicans controlled the White House and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, spending grew at an average annual rate of 1.92%. During the eight years with a Republican president and a split Congress, spending grew at 2.54% per year.

The day the Bush administration took over from President Bill Clinton in 2001, America enjoyed a $236 billion budget surplus — with a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. When the Bush administration left office, it handed President Obama a $1.3 trillion deficit — and projected shortfalls of $8 trillion for the next decade. The Obama legacy is still to be played out but finding themselves in a very “deep hole” over the past few years Obama has spent a tremendous amount of money with stimulus funds to try to dig the USA out of the deep hole. Source

Will the facts, figures, or statistics inform voter’s decisions? I doubt it as people believe what they want to believe and giving them the facts won’t change their mind. Liberals are branded as tax and spenders and Conservatives as great fiscal managers.

Let me know what you think.

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