The Secret Weapon of Political Campaigns

Psychological tactics are being increasingly used in political campaignsThe role of the political psychologists hired to work for political campaigns is to determine public perception of the candidate for which they work, and how to turn this perception into one that incites people to vote for the candidate. For example, some political psychologists are hired to devise strategies to counter smear campaigns and the spread of negative perceptions of the candidate. Perhaps you recall the islamophobia directed toward Obama and promoted by Obama's various political opponents during his 2012 run for president. Why did this campaign not gain more traction? One large reason is because Obama's campaign made extensive use of political psychology tactics, turning to a group of behavioral scientists (the consortium of behavioral scientists) (COBS) who offered advice on how to shape a favorable public perception of Obama. Among the advice given by the COBS was how to counter false rumors, like the one that Obama is a Muslim. Rather than denying the charge, the COBS instructed Obama to affirm the competing notion- that Obama is a Christian. This strategy is based on the idea that denial of a rumor works only in short term, but in the long term, it actually helps people to remember the original association. Thus, affirming Obama and Christian serves to dim the unwanted association of Obama and Muslim and strengthens the competing one.
The 2016 election cycle made much use of political psychologists, many of which analyzed voter data and then used their findings to develop strategies to increase voter support. Former Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz hired behavioral scientists to gather data of potential voters from Facebook posts and then apply personality and political scores to this data. The personality and political scores allowed the campaign to tailor outreach strategies to particular voters. For instance, pro-gun messages where firearms are used for protection were pitched to the more neurotic personalities to play off fearful attitudes.
 
If you are interested in becoming a political psychologist and working on political campaigns, you may first want to get experience working directly on a campaign as an intern or volunteer to see what different roles are available. If you still think working as a political psychologist within a campaign is right you, you could advance your career options by pursuing a master's or PhD degree in political science, data science, or psychology. You could also apply to a program specifically designed for political psychology, such as thePhD degree offered by the Ohio State University. Also keep in mind that because campaigns rely heavily on data analysis, your job qualifications would be greatly enhanced with a strong quantitative or statistical background.