The Power of ‘Q’

James T. Berger headshot

James T. Berger
Senior Marketing Writer

Published February 27, 2019

With the possibility of as many as two dozen candidates, Democrats will soon be scrutinizing what advertisers call the “Q Factor” for each of the presidential hopefuls

Q Factor, or Q quotient, is a grading system based on likability and believability. “Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks have it. Martha Steward and Woody Allen are, sadly, close to Q-less,” writes Gayle MacDonald in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Q’ in Theory

For years advertisers and advertising agencies have relied on Q. When investing huge sums of money on campaigns using pitch people, the Q factor is crucial in the selection process.

According to an article in Scientific Research (Feb. 14, 2012), author Bonachristus Umeogu, a professor at a Nigerian university, writes: “the Greek philosopher understood this virtue and contextualized it by calling it ethos. Credibility and trustworthiness are a virtue that should be sought after by all and sundry regardless of age. These two virtues go together because there cannot be a basis of trust when one is not seen as credible.”

‘Q’ can be fickle as well.  Look at O.J. Simpson who made a fortune running through airports for Hertz. While Bill Cosby likewise earned a fortune promoting Jell-O products.

In watching TV, one can readily see those celebrities that have a high Q rating by the volume of commercials they do. Tiger Woods was a darling of all sorts of advertisers before he ran into trouble. He still has maintained a few relationships. He now seems on the comeback trail.

Politics and ‘Q

So let’s look at the candidates for both Democrats and Republications in relation to ‘Q.’  Donald Trump is what advertisers call a polarization figure. Among his base of somewhere between 30 and 40% of the voters, Trump enjoys a high level of believability and likability – a high Q rating. However, among the rest of the population, he is both disliked and not believed. Among those who disfavor Trump, is Q rating is rock-bottom.

In the last election, one could say that Hillary Clinton had a poor ‘Q’ rating. Her involvement with scandals such as Whitewater, Benghazi and her e-mails contributed to problems on both the likability and believability scales. It turns out many voters developed strong dislike for Hillary during years of service to the country, and perhaps overexposure to the public.  There was never a question of her competency. Richard Nixon, one of the most hated Presidents, never had a competency problem either.

The Primary System.

It’s interesting how Donald Trump won the primaries that led to his nomination. Despite having an extremely low ‘Q’ rating outside his base, his high ‘Q’ rating inside his base was enough to win most of the primaries he entered.  In these primaries, Trump always faced more than one opponent. In the early stages of the primaries, there were multiple opponents. Trump look great by maintaining his lead within the base while limiting the other candidates to voter scraps.

Primaries vary from state to state. Some states have open primaries where a Democrat or Independent can request a Republican ballot and influence the other party.  Another problem with primaries, is low turnout compared with the general election.

Reagan the Rock Star

A great example of the candidate with an extremely high Q factor was Ronald Reagan. Throughout his presidency, he was universally liked and believed. It’s not surprising that Reagan was a popular pitch man before he embarked on his political career.

Bill Clinton also enjoyed a high ‘Q.’ that wasn’t tainted by his problems of infidelity. He consistently enjoyed high likability and high believability. Even though he was impeached by the House of Representatives, his presidency was never in  jeopardy.  Barack Obama also enjoyed a high ‘Q’ rating.

The Democrats

Now let’s look at the Democratic hopefuls. While most of them probably enjoy high “Q’, the only real rock star seems to be Beto O’Rourke. Even though he didn’t win his election for senator in Texas, Beto has emerged as a star. If he doesn’t get the presidential nomination, he’ll probably be on the ticket in the second spot.

Two of the prominent Democratic female candidates, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren post high marks for believability, but their likability doesn’t appear to be as strong. The third Democratic female, Kirstin Gillabrand doesn’t appear to be particularly high on either of the ‘Q’ factor scales. An unannounced possible female candidate, Amy Klobeshar, would appear to have higher ‘Q’ ratings than any of the Democratic females.

The top male candidate, as of yet unannounced, is Joe Biden. He certainly is both likable and believable, and represents the “Center’ of the Democratic Party, but he may not be progressive enough. Bernie Sanders had a high ‘Q’ rating in his 2016 quest, but his views were out of sync with the mainstream of the Democratic Party. How he will do head-to-head with Joe Biden will be determined by the voters. Other Democratic males such as Corey Booker, Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and several lesser-known candidates might emerge as the campaign develops, but will have to rely on a high ‘Q’ rating to get any real traction.

So as the campaign moves on, bear in mind the essentials in one’s ‘Q’ rating. It will be a major factor in determining who gets the nod from the Democratic Party.

About The Author

James T. Berger headshot
James T. Berger, Senior Marketing Writer of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.