Thanks to the Internet, proliferating consumer choices and a dramatic shift in American culture, voters and consumers are more impatient — and more fickle — than ever before. They’re less beholden to old attachments and more willing to make dramatic changes in lifestyle and preferences — whether that’s for a cell phone provider, a spouse or even a religious preference. It’s a trend that some say fueled the rise of Barack Obama as a political force and one that, if he’s not exquisitely careful, could undo him just as easily as it sped his dramatic ascent.
An emerging group of political practitioners and social scientists is examining the trend and finding that loyalty — at least the kind of loyalty that once kept consumers bound to products and voters bound to political parties — is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
That has profound implications for the future: As old attachments continue to fall away over the coming decades, American culture, politics and business will become ever more tumultuous as leaders and institutions try to stay ahead of an ever-quickening pace of change, chasing an increasingly fickle and mobile population. Election cycles tend to be driven by hot demographic trends. Think of George W. Bush’s victory among soccer moms in 2000 and Rahm Emanuel’s battle to win NASCAR dads in 2006.
The 2010 election cycle may well be dominated by a fight for the “fickle kids.”