Continued Results of the NeuroPolitical Presidential Debate Study: Undecided Voters

As President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off on stage for the first time, a consortium of market research companies (HCD Research, Shimmer Research Inc., IVP Research Labs, and The Schlesinger Group) used neuroscience measurement to gauge voter response to the September 29th Presidential Debate. Applied neuroscience, also known as neuromarketing, allows marketers to identify non-conscious response to communications. Biometric practitioners and neuropolitical experts suggest neuro-measures can tap into reactions that voters are often unwilling or unable to express.

Many suspected that decided voters, those that claimed they intend to vote for either Trump or Biden, would react accordingly with Trump voters reacting to Trump talking points and Biden voters reacting  to Biden talking points (or potentially reacting strongly to their opponents jabs at their candidate). We will be releasing more results regarding decided voters shortly.

However, a particularly interesting group of voters are those that remained undecided going into the debate. It was unknown whether undecided voters, those that claim to be unsure of whom they will vote for, would react more in line with Trump or Biden voters, or if their reactive moments during the debate would be different from both voter groups.

Key Questions About Undecided Voters:

  • What topics did they have the biggest response to?
  • Who do they track with in responses, Trump or Biden voters? Where do they differ?

We identified key salient moments (when Undecideds’ physiological reaction was greatest – with the majority of the group experiencing sustained (3+ seconds) increases in both moderate and/or high arousal). The graphs below represent these salient moments where scores were averaged over the salient time periods (3+ seconds, which differ for each moment).

Undecided Voters Key Issues: Healthcare & the Economy

Undecided Voters reacted strongly during two key segments: Healthcare and the Economy. This is most interesting because healthcare was not identified or called out in the media follow-up to the debate as being a key moment, presenting a key opportunity to discuss a topic that was clearly important to Undecided Voters.

In particular, Undecided Voters reacted strongly when the candidates were discussing healthcare and Biden (after being continuously interrupted by President Trump with “You just lost the left”) jabbed: “He (Trump) is not for anyone needing help for people needing healthcare because he has in fact already cost 10 million people their healthcare that they had from their employers because of his recession.”

Biden on Healthcare: “He (Trump) is not for anyone needing help for people needing healthcare because he has in fact already cost 10 million people their healthcare that they had from their employers because of his recession.”

Further, during discussions about the Economy, when Biden was discussing his economic plan, Trump began to interject “That is 100 Trillion… more money than our country can make in 100 years”. Leading up to this point, Trump had interrupted calling Biden’s plan “the dumbest, most ridiculous” and suggested Biden wanted to “take out the cows too.”

Trump on Biden’s economic plan: “That is 100 Trillion… more money than our country can make in 100 years”.

Who do Undecideds side with more? Trump or Biden Voters?

In most of the salient moments for Undecideds, both Trump and Biden voters also reacted. In the first case regarding Obamacare, Undecideds reacted strongly while Biden and Trump voters’ reactions were less strong. All voter groups reacted strongly to Biden’s comment that regarding Trump, “He is so unpresidential.”

Trump stated: “The most unpopular part (individual mandate) of Obamacare, I got rid of it” while Wallace was trying to take back control of the debate saying he is moderator.

While Biden & Trump argued back and forth, Biden said, “He is so unpresidential” and Wallace was trying to end the topic.

When Wallace said Trump interrupted more than Biden and to move on.

But it does seem for the remaining Undecided salient moments, that Undecided voter reactions may be more similar to that of Trump voters. However, it is important to mention that we since we only measured GSR (galvanic skin response – emotional arousal), we can’t be sure whether participants were reacting more positively or negatively to the moment. Therefore, it is possible that while Trump, Biden, or Undecided voters may have been reacting strongly, it’s not clear if it was a positive or negative response to what was happening. Therefore, while Trump and Undecided voters both reacted to a moment, it’s not clear they felt the same about that particular moment.

We also conducted a brief survey pre- and post-debate among participants regarding who they thought would win and who would benefit most before the debate, as well as who they thought won and if their opinion of the candidate changed after the debate. Interestingly, while only a third of Undecided Voters said they thought Biden would win before the debate, the majority of Undecideds agreed after the debate that Biden had in fact won. Nearly half of Undecideds said their opinion changed more towards Biden after viewing the debate.

Following Trump referencing Pocahontas (referring to Sen. Warren) during some back and forth, Biden says he is going to get very lucky again tonight (referencing his luck against Sen. Sanders).

When Wallace asked (regarding COVID-19 and wearing masks) “Why are you holding the big rallies…”, Trump responded that “People want to hear what I have to say”.