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Rajan Sambandam

Conventional wisdom says that voter participation in closely contested elections is higher because of the inherent competitiveness. The logic is that people feel that their vote could be decisive in a close election and hence more turn out to vote. But is that really true? Ron Shachar has crunched the numbers from three Presidential elections using some advanced statistical analysis and says that the answer is a bit more complicated than that.     
 
While the analysis is too complex to detail here, the basic idea is quite straightforward. Does the competitiveness of an election (defined as the closeness of the race as measured by vote percentage of the two major candidates) always predict turnout, or does its effect disappear when marketing variables are included in the model? Previous research either had not considered this approach or had insufficient marketing variables to use in the model, leading to the conclusion that closeness predicts turnout. 
 
In this research data on marketing variables such as advertising and grass roots campaigning were available and included in the analysis. It turns out that when you do that, the impact of the closeness on turnout disappears. What does this mean? It means that closeness of the election drives turnout only indirectly through marketing expenditure. In fact, it is even possible in such a model to calculate the precise   impact of the marketing variables.
 
For example, increasing the proportion of the population contacted by both parties by 10% (i.e. increasing the grassroots efforts) leads to an increase of 2% points in participation, which of course is a huge improvement. Overall Shachar finds that if all marketing activity for the 2004 election had been cancelled, the number of voters would have decreased by 15 million!
 
What this research really shows is the precise and dramatic impact of marketing variables on turnout. It is not just a question of belief on the political consultants. Spending money appropriately does turn out the vote.
 
This research was conducted by Ron Shachar who is a Professor of Marketing at Tel Aviv University and is currently a Visiting Associate Professor of Marketing at Duke University. It was published in the Journal of Marketing Research.
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What are the Odds?

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One of the painful experiences of my life occurred in early 1991 when I was a student at SUNY in Buffalo, New York. The Buffalo Bills were in their first Super Bowl playing the New York Giants and the game was down to the last seconds. Trailing 20-19 the Bills depended on their kicker Scott Norwood to kick a 47 yard field goal to win it all. I was one of those who was crushed when the kick sailed wide right by a yard. That was perhaps their best chance even though they went back to the Super Bowl (count ‘em) three more times and lost each one.  

The question I have is would they have been more likely to win if that game was played today? 

How to be More Creative

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It is known that one way to become more creative is to shift one’s perspective.The best selling author of The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown, is said to hang upside down with gravity boots to help shift his perspective for the creativity needed in his novels. Travel is another helpful method for shifting perspective. There is now some new research to show that distance can be helpful in making a person more creative. But the research has an important and interesting qualifier.

I Won't Have What She's Having

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See if this sounds familiar. You and three other friends have gone to a nice restaurant for dinner. The waiter passes the menus around and you are eyeing the pork chops in some kind of fancy glazed sauce. The lamb chops sound nice too, but your preference is clearly for the pork chops. The waiter is going around the table taking orders. Your good friend who is ordering just before you goes for the pork chops. You hear that and decide to order the lamb chops because you don’t want to get the same thing your friend got. Sound familiar? Why does this happen? Why didn’t you choose your favorite dish? Do other people act this way? That’s what Dan Ariely and Jonathan Levav asked themselves. As researchers of consumer behavior, they are well qualified to search for the answer.

What is Kate Winslet Worth?

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The answer is 60 million pounds. At least that’s the answer according to the UK Film Council that has started a novel program (an “audit”) to evaluate the value of creative people for their country. The first data point in the analysis was Kate Winslet and the process is now being referred to as the Winslet algorithm. 

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