None of that keeps politicians from trying. David Straker, a change consultant, runs a website called changingminds.org.
"One of the key things is trust," Straker says. "You can use fear. Some people do. They don't want to change minds. They just want to get your vote. 'If you vote for the other side, all sorts of terrible things will happen.'
"But to the extent that you're never going to get rid of emotions, you can reduce [the emotional effect]. You want people to think."
After more than two decades of researching for his site, covering hundreds of books and studies, Straker points out three important traits that politicians, or anyone who wants to change people's minds, have to communicate. They all have to do with trust:
1. Reliability: Politicians (and anyone else trying to change minds) need to show that they are steady, that they are what they appear. Someone who is unpredictable — who flip-flops on stances or breaks promises — cannot be trusted.
2. Honesty: Successful politicians convince people of their honesty. A potential voter has to believe that what a politician is saying is true. If not, no vote.
3. Caring: Politicians have to show that they care. "People do quite a lot of at least pretending to care. So they kiss babies and so on," Straker says. But do they really? That's what politicians need to show, both by example (actively showing it by taking some political risk) and simply by showing (more passively) that they won't do any harm.
Sure, there are the tricks politicians use, too: kissing babies, shaking hands, touching elbows, using key words (America, trust, honor, flag), appealing to shared emotions, promising a brighter future, vowing to throw the bums out.
And, of course, they all keep hammering home their message. Again and again. Repetition of your message is tool No. 1 in the politician's bag.