Trust in Politicians? Analysis of the content of politicians' websites
I would like to start an attempt to judge politicians like self-employed people or companies and assess their trustworthiness based on their personal websites. Is that even possible? Do the same criteria for trustworthiness apply? What is particularly important in politics? And does that work on the basis of the personal websites?
The impact of politicians primarily takes place in the media, be it in talk shows, press reports or social media. In addition, there are the local appearances, which play an essential role with local politicians. Hardly anyone looks at the websites of the main people standing for election. Or? Hardly anyone really reads the party programs. But if we assume that the staging of politicians on their personal websites is carefully considered by Online Marketing Agencys and that the statements on talk shows, in street election campaigns, etc. come from the same pen, it is consistent to judge trustworthiness based on the content and content marketing strategy of the websites.
This is not about the parties either, but completely detached from the effect of the people. It is like in a survey in which the question is asked: "How trustworthy do you consider the person ...?". The same question arises for every politician who stands for election in his or her constituency. Occasionally, individual personalities manage to do significantly better than the party in the first vote in the constituency. Since I assume that not every voter was convinced in personal contact, communication via website etc. must have had its effect.
In my method TRUST MODULES I have identified six main points that are important for the charisma of trust: customer orientation, competence, integrity, results, aura and personality. These can be assessed in more detail with 18 sub-items. In each industry, the individual points have a different weighting. Decisiveness is particularly important for lawyers, results and responsibility for craftsmen, competence and clarity for doctors, etc.
Does that also work for politicians? Of course it does. Because it's always about trust. Trust in a doctor, trust in a craftsman, trust in a politician - the same conditions apply to generate this feeling. It is only the individual building blocks that have to be evaluated differently.
In the assessment of political persons, the following political trust is relevant:
Why have these points and not the others been considered here?
The personality of the politician plays a major role. The question here is which type is most trustworthy. From my perspective, the ideal type would be a mix of 2/3 authority and 1/3 conqueror, Barack Obama rather than Elon Musk. People at eye level are not a relevant role for policy makers.
For the assessment of the Competence the factors expertise, process knowledge, experience, passion and capacity are important. Since it can be assumed for all political persons, at least at the federal level, that they would use 100% of their personal capacity for the job, this value does not play a role here. Only in the case of local politicians should it be worth mentioning that they are available with full commitment. Interestingly, and discussed again and again, expertise is also subordinate. Hardly any minister has learned the subject over which he presides. Knowledge of political processes is already important, but is also assumed in case of doubt. The factors of experience and passion are therefore more important for assessing competence.
Customer orientation in the case of the politician becomes the voter orientation. Here we have to ask ourselves which issues are currently most significant for potential voters in their election decision. At the federal level, these are, according to Forschungsgruppe Wahlen: Political Barometer Now in May 2021:
- Coronavirus 76%
- Environment/climate/energy turnaround 26%
- Education 6% | Foreigners, integration, refugees 6% | Social disparities 6%
Depending on the polling institute, other values are also very important, such as digitization. However, it is striking that the typical topics for far-right voters, such as migration and internal security, are not currently in focus. In order to check how trustworthy the content of a website makes the politician behind it appear, it is always necessary to check which topics are currently relevant for potential voters, whether in a city, a state or at the federal level.
So to assess a politician's voter orientation, I look at the extent to which she or he addresses the five most important issues mentioned earlier. Every politician should form an opinion on the issues that concern potential voters and communicate it. In doing so, he or she shows that he or she is interested in people's issues and offers solutions.
For the aura of the politician, a number of sub-factors are important. I have not taken into account the proximity. The closer someone is to us, the more trustworthy they are. In the case of federal politicians, however, it hardly matters whether he or she comes from Lübeck, Erlangen or Aachen. And in the case of local politicians, most of them come from the region anyway. Also the collective (in this case the party) has a great importance, but is not easily changeable. For many people, politicians from a particular party are not trustworthy across the board. The same applies the other way around, so that politicians from a certain party are generally trusted more. I will leave the few prominent party changes (such as Otto Schily) out of this. Expectation of the future is at most a factor with older politicians, such as currently Winfried Kretschmann, but I would also attach low importance to it here. And last but not least, transparency is also important (topic of donations), but of secondary importance for the assessment of trustworthiness.
The important factors for the aura of the politician are:
The Brand. For me, this includes the complete area of design. Is the website designed in a contemporary way? How are the photos taken? What fonts are used? What colors? Does the visual representation match the inner values of the politician?
The Clarity. Is the content clear and easy to understand for everyone? Do the texts have short and concise sentences? Do I quickly understand what the main points are?
The Resoluteness. Does the politician know what he wants? Does he convey to me that he wants to push through his goals with all determination? Do I have the confidence in him or her to carry this through?
The Innovation. It is not a new insight that political elections are decided with solutions for the future. Does the politician have innovative ideas for the city, state or federal government in the coming years? Or is it always just the same solutions that are presented? In order to trust someone, you need to have the feeling that he or she will continue to actively use new knowledge and new technologies in the interest of the voters in the future.
The Durability. At the same time as innovativeness, however, consistency is also an important factor in assessing trustworthiness. Someone who runs after every fast trend is not trustworthy. Clear values to which one is oriented help to consistently follow the long lines.
Results are the most important factor for assessing trustworthiness in many industries. Even in the case of politicians, this point would not be left out. When Ms. Merkel stood for election for the third time after 8 years, she only had to refer to her results as chancellor. That speaks for itself and is convincing (of course only if the results are right). In general, it helps every politician if he can show here what he has already initiated and implemented in his political career.
The Integrity is one of the most important factors in judging politicians. Someone who has integrity acts in accordance with his values and his overriding goal. In order to be able to judge this, it is therefore important first of all to understand what the politician's overriding goal and values are when I look at the website. In the second step, I can look at how the previous speeches, motions, statements, etc. fit in with this or not. To stay with the example of Angela Merkel. For many CDU voters, there was no integrity in renouncing nuclear power and abolishing conscription. It takes quite a bit of convincing to explain why and how one's own values and inner convictions have changed. If this is not successful, it will be difficult to remain trustworthy.
So now when it comes to analyzing politician websites, from our content marketing agency perspective, these factors need to be considered. Which of these factors carries how much weight? Since there is a slight overlap between experience and results, I only rate the results with 10 maximum achievable points. From my perspective, the most important factors are voter orientation and aura. These two areas will each receive a maximum of 20 points. I also rate the competence with a maximum of 20 points. Since the personality also has intersections with the aura, it gets another maximum of 15 points each, just like the integrity. Thus, a maximum of 100 trust points are available for the assessment
I'll be applying this analysis to one or two politician websites in the coming weeks, and I'm already very excited to see what comes out of it.
In an earlier version of this blog post, the breakdown of factors was slightly different. I have adjusted that.
Examples of website ratings: Armin Laschet | Annalena Baerbock | Olaf Scholz