Media And Politians' Body Language

Politicians' public-friendly stunts
Does it impact their governing?

By JOANNE RICHARD, Special to QMI Agency

Last Updated: August 6, 2010 10:00pm
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Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and his tour bus made a stop at MuchMusic in Toronto. (Michael Peake/QMI Agency) From singalongs to festival jigs, politicians are croonin’ and movin’ to the political beat.

Iggy got jiggy at MuchMusic recently. Federal Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff staged a conga line and danced several feet onto his tour bus in downtown Toronto.

Remember Stephen Harper’s attempted singalong at the National Arts Centre Gala last year? And just last week President Obama made a sit-down appearance on The View, marking the first-ever appearance by a president on a daytime talk show.

According to Patti Wood, these politicians are working hard at increasing their likability factor in order to appear more approachable and connected. “Showing their soft, fluffy, likable side is a way of getting more media coverage.

“It’s a shift from gravitas to gregarious!” adds Wood, body language expert and author of Success Signals. “Politicians seem reconciled that it is difficult, if not impossible, to be credible to gain our trust and respect, so they are singing, dancing, and cracking jokes on talk shows in a bid for media attention that gives them popularity. They are using their charisma to at least be likable.”

Dr. Lillian Glass agrees. “Politicians are so vilified that they’re trying to make themselves appear more human and likable – they’re just building up their image points and leave a better impression for when the mud and dirt start to fling.”

Glass, a body language/communications expert, adds that although their songs and dances are superficial, they will impact how some people vote.

Author Sanjay Burman says that “seeing politicians who can’t dance but shed their insecurities to go out and have fun, makes us see a personable side to them.

“Stephen Harper shaking hands with his youngest son on the first day of school showed us he is just as stiff as we thought.”

And his singing stint was off-key in the warmth department too.

Burman, of, says that we love Obama as a person “because he shows us that he is the same as we are. He is intelligent, successful, loving, genuine and fun. He plays basketball, jokes during interviews and always has his family around.

“I have a problem trusting Ignatieff,” adds Burman, a master hypnotherapist and author of "Reading People and Do Everything They Tell You Not To Do."

“His eyebrows are always covering his face. He keeps his distance when shaking hands with people and even when he smiles he keeps a stern look.”

According to Hogan, song and dance are all for show. “They are trying to achieve their 51% and they know that people filter by identity prior to political views. It simply makes good sense to literally touch as many humans as possible. Those people you touch that you can identify, you are much, much more likely to vote for at the polls.”

When it comes to appealing to certain demographics, politicians know exactly where to aim.

Obama is losing support in the unemployed and also the upper income groups, says Hogan. "He's trying to get back "in" with the lower income America by hitting The View. It's a smart strategy on his part - it isn’t going to help a whole lot but it's probably better than not doing the gig!"

Looks count

Superficial, non-verbal cues, such as politicians’ appearance, greatly sway voting choices. Voters make judgments about politicians’ competence based on their facial appearance.

-June 2010 issue of the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

“Attractive candidates get more news coverage than less attractive ones, reports Patti Wood, body language expert. “And it’s more important for a female politician to be attractive if she wants to get media coverage.”

The bottom line: People generally want to be with good looking people – they even value them as being more worthy.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at