Hard Choices: What's in a political memoir title?

William JordanUS Elections Editor
June 24, 2014, 1:41 PM GMT+0

We tested the appeal of the memoir titles of potential 2016 candidates, and uncovered some surprising results

Hard Choices. American Dreams. One Nation. The political memoir has become a standard way that political candidates make their pitch for office, and train their supporters in how to tell their story. But by picking a title, what are the authors trying to say about themselves? And who are they trying to appeal to?

We tested the titles of 17 political memoirs from potential 2016 candidates, both Republican and Democrat, asking which book people would be interested to read without saying who had written which book.

It turns out that the overall favorite book amongst Republicans is by the Dennis Kucinich (A Prayer for America), a liberal, and the overall favorite amongst Democrats is by Ben Carson (One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future), a conservative.

Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices does well with Democrats, as 21% say they’d like to read it, though Clinton's book may benefit from wider name recognition due to the memoir's book tour. Tied at the top of the list with Democrats is former Virginia Senator Jim Webb’s Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America. Titles from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden all fall flat with Democrats.

Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich, the author of the book Republicans liked the most, competed for the Democratic nomination in both 2004 and 2008 (the same year he led an attempt in the House to impeach George W. Bush). Technically, the book doesn’t quite fit the definition of "political memoir", as it is actually a collection of speeches – but more Republicans were interested in reading A Prayer for America than any of the books written by Republican politicians.

At the same time, Democrats liked two books titles from Republicans more than any of the Democratic titles: One Nation by Ben Carson and American Dreams by Marco Rubio. One Nation was also the favorite among Republicans and Independents.

Respondents were also asked in a separate poll whether they thought the author of each book was a Republican or Democrat, and the guesses tended to hit the mark.

A majority of Americans got it right for every Republican book title except for one (Against All Odds by Scott Brown) and five out of eight Democratic titles. Most Democrats, however, guessed that their two favorite Republican titles (by Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Scott Brown) were written by Democrats. Similarly, most Republicans thought their three favorite Democratic titles (by Dennis Kucinich, Jim Webb and Elizabeth Warren) were written by Republicans.

See the full results for each poll here and here.