Mitt Romney’s Fear-Mongering Is a Psychological Trick

Doom and gloom were big themes in Mitt Romney’s speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars today. And they may be just the ticket to a win next November.

Mitt Romney's Fear-Mongering Is a Psychological Trick

“We stand near the threshold of profound economic misery. Four more years of the same political path would be disastrous,” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars today.

He later remarked, “Today we are united not only by our faith in America. We are united also by our concern for America.”

That anxiety and nervousness have come up a lot in Romney’s speeches over the past few months. They were implicit in his presidential announcement, “I refuse to believe that American is just another place on the map with a flag. We stand for freedom, opportunity and hope. These last two years have not been the best of times.”

While Romney’s attitude would make him a Debbie Downer at dinner parties, the angst he invokes is a key emotion for his and other candidates’ elections.

“Anxiety drives people’s research. They’re more likely to pay attention to a campaign,” political psychologist David P. Redlawsk recently told me.

Redlawsk, one of the authors of the book ‘Why Iowa?: How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process,’ also mentioned that while challengers like Romney need to stoke fear, President Obama cannot do the same, lest voters blame our national woes on him.

Unfortunately for Romney, however, Redlawsk says that while political paranoia will seize people’s attention, “it won’t get them to the ballot box.” What’s more, no amount of anxiety and fear can give Romney what Redlawsk says is one of a campaign’s most important asset: “an affective relationship; an emotional response to a campaign.”

“As people, we evaluate people all the time. We make summary impressions without a lot of details,” he says. “And those evaluations become sticky and can be hard to change, even if you have more information.”

Romney remains somewhat unrelatable for average Americans, especially after coming out for corporations—and now it’s been revealed the multimillionaire is enlarging his California mansion, a detail that will only remind struggling voters that he’s rolling in dough while they’re struggling with the malaise that Romney uses for his political ends.