In academic terms, the coziness built by these efforts is called parasocial interaction—it’s the one-sided attachment people develop for media figures, and the reason why, when we meet a celebrity, we feel like we already know them. The big problem with this in a political context is the bread-and-circuses effect, where citizens get distracted by a personality they like and stop paying attention to issues and policies. But Marland and Goodyear-Grant both point out, with resigned ruefulness, that reams of research in their shared discipline suggests very few people think about those things anyway. Citizens generally form broad impressions of their political leaders, decide whether they like and trust them, and then leave them to handle the details if they do. “Most people are just not paying attention to this stuff. They just don’t care,” Marland says. “So it gives them probably a sense of pride that their Prime Minister seems to be well respected on the international stage.”
The entire article is excellent: Shannon Proudfoot has masterfully accounted for how the Trudeau campaign (and Prime Minister’s Office) has branded and marketed him. But the part that I quoted from the article is something that more people need to appreciate and understand, especially those who are involved in politics. Canadians generally are removed from politics and simply don’t care about them. This isn’t to say that political parties’ positions and actions don’t matter. But few people are actually paying attention to the minutia or day-to-day of federal, provincial, or municipal politics.