The Horse Race and Politics

The horse race strategy is a management tool that allows executives at a company to compete for the top leadership role. Proponents say the practice can bring a number of benefits to an organization, including motivation to employees, and the ability to choose the best leader from among several skilled candidates. The strategy also promotes a culture of leadership development by offering high performers a clear path to more challenging roles, where they can develop competencies and gain the experience necessary for the top job.

The popularity of horse races draws spectators to grandstands, where they can enjoy mint juleps and watch beautiful horses run in tight packs. But behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing lies a world of drug abuse, gruesome injuries and slaughter. In addition, racehorses are forced to sprint—often under the threat of whips and illegal electric shock devices—at speeds that can cause pulmonary bleeding and death.

For these reasons, the use of horse race metaphors to describe political campaigns has come under intense criticism. Some critics say it trivializes politics by reducing it to a spectacle involving gladiators and spectators, while others argue that the practice distracts from substantive differences between candidates. Many scholars have studied how horse race reporting affects elections and the quality of journalism.

Some studies have found that the horse race metaphor in campaign coverage contributes to a focus on frontrunners and their momentum, while neglecting issues of substance. In one study, for example, researchers found that stories describing candidates’ positions on important issues were overshadowed by news about who was leading in opinion polls. The horse-race framing of election coverage has also been linked to the growing popularity of modern opinion polling techniques.

Other studies have examined the impact of a company’s use of horse-race metaphors on the success of its leaders. Using data from two studies that analyzed the performance of leaders of companies with a wide range of ownership structures, researchers found that horse-race metaphors were more common in papers owned by large chains and media corporations, as well as in papers covering close races and during the weeks leading up to an election.

While horse races require a certain degree of skill, the results are often determined by chance. A horse’s chance of winning a race is based on its speed and position on the track, as well as the quality of its jockey, trainer and the course. A horse’s speed is measured by a variety of methods, including hand-timed trials and electronic timing systems. A race is won by a horse that crosses the finish line first, with dead heat rules governing the case of a tie.

In the event that a horse races into a barrier, it is considered to have balked and is disqualified from the race. A jockey’s skill in riding the horse and avoiding barriers is another factor that determines a winner. If the race is so close that it cannot be decided by the naked eye, a photo finish is used to determine the winner.