Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ignore The Polls at Your Peril

Paul Howes is at it again.

As Labor's primary vote in the polls drops to 30%, and threatens to fall further, along with Ms Gillard's preferred Prime Minister ranking, Paul Howes on morning TV today proudly announced that he pays no attention to polls, and that he is more interested in looking after workers and such.

Nice try, Paul. Nice try - saluting as the ship goes down.

But if he truly did ignore polls, he wouldn't have been one of the faceless union headbangers that rolled Kevin Rudd and helped to install Julia Gillard as leader of the Labor party, and subsequently, Prime Minister of Australia.

Now however, 7 months out from the next federal election, Paul Howes now magically ignores polls, and admittedly 'ate humble pie' when the question was put forward to him of rolling Mr Rudd - ironically, based on opinion polls.

Usually it's politicians that deny paying attention to opinion polls. Mr Howes is by no means a politician, although he would probably fancy himself as being one, since he wears a similar suit and occasionally bashes the Greens, or whoever else holds a different political opinion to him, despite relying on them for his party to govern.

And evidently, after the ousting of Mr Rudd as party leader, he does wield political oomph.

That move of knifing Rudd barely saved Labor from the wilderness at the last election.

If it weren't for the grace of the independents, and the Greens who Mr Howes likes to savage every-so-often, they would not even be in government.

The hypocrisy displayed by Mr Howes beggars belief.

The likes of Mr Howes may bemoan opinion polls, but they forget to acknowledge that political communication is still mostly a 1950s one-way affair, albeit with a minutely news cycle.

Politicians make piecemeal attempts to interact with the electorate using social media, and perhaps sometimes opening up a dialog with the public, but messages from the government are still mostly 'injection theory' types of communication.

While Australia does love its opinion polling perhaps a little too much, it's one of the main, proper ways that the electorate can voice their approval or disapproval with whom is in government, and whom may become the government.

Even political parties have their own internal means of polling, so don't believe any of them when they say they don't pay attention to the polls, because while they may not pay attention to public polling, they would definitely be paying attention to their own focus groups.

Interestingly, the communist party of China is constantly polling its own population, just to check up if the public is happy with them, even though they're the only legitimate party.

When public polls are good for a party, they feign disinterest. When public polls are bad for a party, they feign disinterest.

So it has to be acknowledged, that commenting on public opinion must be poison.

In Labor's case, there's not really much else they can do to please the public. Things such as the Schoolkids Bonus (all one word, that really is what it's called, despite being an 'education' initiative) are currently being used by Labor to sweeten the electorate.

"Oh, my!" they collectively cry - "the Opposition would TAKE AWAY the Schoolkids Bouns!!"

Which is ironic, given that it was the Liberals that introduced a means for parents to claim similar amounts of money, so long as they produced receipts for the cost of school items - Labor only removed the need for receipts and re-packaged it as their own, and instead hand out lump sums of cash.

So besides the Schoolkids Bonus, Labor isn't really focusing on what it would mean for Australia if the Liberals came to power - hence why the former's popularity is dropping in the polls, and why Mr Abbott is appearing more and more prime ministerial.

I suppose we can put it down to the fact that the official political campaign hasn't even started, and perhaps we're all getting ahead of ourselves, especially with the polls.

The political year has only barely just started, and we still have one more Federal Budget to get through before election time, which will probably be the true test of Labor.

Especially given the fact that the promised surplus is no more, and that the watered-down resources rent tax (mining tax) has failed to raise any meaningful revenue.

In the meantime, I wonder if the faceless men behind Labor, such as NSW Labor Secretary Sam Dastyari, whose party is stinking awfully at the moment with allegations of corruption coming out of ICAC, is paying attention to those polls and mulling their party's future.

Labor will probably run a very smart, and very tight federal campaign, but a cloak-and-daggers leadership change is surely not an option.

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