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[Opinion] Bandwagon Voters

Posted January. 03, 2007 03:00,   


A “bandwagon” used to be a wagon that carried the band in the front of a circus parade in the Western world. Its purpose was to attract people by boosting the overall atmosphere. Crowds gathered to the sound of the noisy bandwagon.

The bandwagon or the herding effect is the observation that without examining the merits of a particular thing, people tend to "follow the crowd." A music band making a loud sound to make people gather had the bandwagon effect in mind as well.

It was Harvey Leibenstein, the prestigious American economist, who coined the bandwagon effect. In his paper on the theory of consumer demand published in 1950, he said that demand for certain products affected by other demands was the bandwagon effect.

The Veblen effect is when people`s preferences for buying increases as a direct function of prices that look better than others, while the snob effect observes that a higher rarity of goods triggers consumption. Companies recruit famous celebrities and sports stars as their promotion models in a strategy to utilize the bandwagon effect.

In the world of sports, there is a term “bandwagon fan.” It refers to a person who cheers for a winning team just because it continues to win as a professional team although he or she has no connection to it or because it would make him or her more likable as it is a winning team. In politics, supporters are herded together for a candidate doing well in the opinion polls, which is described as “the bandwagon effect in the opinion polls.” The trap in the bandwagon effect is the possibility that jumping on the bandwagon without much knowledge might end up in collective fallacy.

Lee Myung-bak, the former Seoul mayor, showed overwhelmingly high support ratings in recent opinion polls on presidential candidates held on January 1. Some analyze that the bandwagon effect must have played a role. It makes sense because of a lack of verification between candidates or of their policies as of now. No one knows for sure whether the bandwagon effect for Lee will grow bigger, or another candidate will create new bandwagon effect if the effect is actually underway.

Kwon Soon-taek, Editorial Writer, maypole@donga.com