Making space for leadership

The scope for politicians to choose how they respond to market research

Authored by: Jennifer Lees-Marshment

Routledge Handbook of Political Marketing

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415579933
eBook ISBN: 9780203349908
Adobe ISBN: 9781136597442


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Leadership is an important part of democratic politics. Not only are political leaders a key focus of the political offering at election time, but they are the ones who make the final decisions as a president or prime minister with the potential to affect not just an individual country but the world. Leadership and political marketing both encompass many different activities and concepts, but this chapter focuses on how leaders respond to one aspect of political marketing, market research, which is a crucial part of political marketing. Market research offers politicians the opportunity to understand public opinion, and can help politicians demonstrate a feeling of being in touch. However, it could also prevent them making the ‘right’ decisions on policy against the findings of market research. Towards the end of his leadership, Tony Blair, once critiqued for being a follower of focus groups, commented:

The easy thing to do, frankly, is to hit the button on exactly what the public wants to hear … The responsibility, though, in the end, particularly in the case of war, is to do what I believe to be the right thing for the country. I can’t do it simply on the basis of the number of people who demonstrate, or on the basis of this opinion poll or that opinion poll. You’ve got to do, on an issue like this, what you genuinely believe to be right for the country, and then pay the price at the election if people disagree with you.

(Tony Blair, Tony and June, Channel 4, 30 January 2005)

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