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This is the story of hard choices and how people resist making them.
Last week’s poll asked you to watch a video by Simon Sinek before answering two, simple, two-part questions: which Republican candidate for President and Missouri Governor is most likely and least likely to eat last?
I intended the poll to be hard. Not complicated, not long, but emotionally challenging.
Why the Poll Was Emotionally Challenging
For several weeks, I have built a case for the importance of leadership. Along with St. Louis Tea Party Coalition, I’ve conducted two surveys about preferences for Missouri Governor and US President and one about most important qualities of a candidate. While analyzing the results of the polls and looking at verbatim comments about those polls, I spotted a disconnect: many respondents hold vague notions of what leadership is.
Looking across these and other polls, it’s clear that leadership is the most important quality to voters, but without a working definition of leadership, people can call just about anyone a leader. For example, studies have shown that people consider extroversion a sign of leadership, yet other studies find that ambiverts–those who have both extroversion and introversion traits–are much more successful than extroverts.
The Fascinating Stat
So what is this fascinating statistic?
It’s completion percentage.
Typically, between 75 percent and 80 percent of people who start my polls finish them. This is true of both long and short surveys.
But the completion percentage of the Leaders Eat Last poll was only 54 percent–20 percentage points lower than the previous two polls.
I’m speculating here, but I think the reason for the high abandonment rate is simple cognitive dissonance. People watched Simon Sinek’s video on leadership and agreed with the premise that leaders eat last. Then they were asked to decide which of the leading candidates for President and Governor is the kind of person to eat last or to use power and privilege to eat first. When a person’s chosen candidate failed the eat-last leadership test, he abandon the poll.
Put another way, when faced with the difficult choice of a) sticking with a candidate who lacks a key leadership quality, or b) re-evaluating support for a candidate, many people invented a third option: don’t choose.
When 46 percent of respondents abandon a 30-second poll, it’s safe to say many of them were avoiding a hard choice. It makes sense. No one was required to complete the poll; there was no penalty for abandonment. If your first choice for President or Governor is clearly the kind of person who would eat last, the poll takes only a few seconds and leaves you feeling more confident in your choice of candidates.
If, however, you cannot honestly say your first-choice candidate would eat last, you’re faced with a dilemma. You can lie about your prediction of your chosen candidate’s leadership qualities, or you can admit that your candidate lacks a quality you value. Given that choice, I believe many people chose not to choose.
The results of the poll did not surprise me at all. In general, Ben Carson and Eric Greitens were viewed as MOST LIKELY to eat last.
Donald Trump and Catherine Hanaway were seen as LEAST LIKELY to eat last.
Overall, I agree with the readers’ choices, but this poll requires more commentary.
First, I’m surprised Carly Fiorina received so few LEAST LIKELY votes. While I admire a lot about Ms. Fiorina, I have raised the question of her leadership style at HP which seems to indicate she’d eat first.
Second, I should point out that my intent was to force hard choices. Another method would be to allow respondents to rate each candidate on a scale. If , instead, respondents had rated each candidate on a zero to ten scale, I believe the order of ranking would have been the same, but the margins would have been much closer, especially for Missouri Governor.
Here’s why: Peter Kinder could have made a lot more money practicing law or as a business executive these 13 years. He had the opportunity. Instead, he has spent over a decade ensuring Missouri Republicans have a senior statewide officeholder. That tells me Kinder is the kind of leader who will eat last. Likewise, John Brunner is a Marine officer, and Marine officers by long tradition eat last. Eric Greitens is certainly the kind of leader Simon Sinek recommends in the video. That doesn’t mean Peter Kinder and John Brunner are not that kind of leader.
Finally, I don’t think anyone was surprised that most readers believe Trump is the kind of leader who elbows his way to the front of line.
Thank you for taking the poll. Because I’ve had a lot of business travel the past few weeks, this week’s poll will launch late, probably on Monday.