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GETTING OUT THE VOTE October 15, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, US Politics.

It may be very understandable that low information voters, and given the three levels of government that may be in wider net than usually described, should act like consumers relying on brand imagery and identification. It would depend on context.

These thoughts on Australian politics, follow a conversation with a taxi driver.

Personally I am inclined to see the hung Federal Parliament as an achievement of democracy. It has allowed some questions to promoted that otherwise would not have got notice, particularly the issues related to gambling. The state of the numbers in the Parliament has made the Government more cautious than it otherwise might have been, although it has shown itself extraordinarily responsive to the swing voters in the marginal seats. The inhuman policy on refugees has been the outcome.

The hung Parliament has created in the minds of some a sense of illegitimacy for the Government, believing that they hold the Treasury Benches only because of the support of the Independents. The resignation of the Speaker rather than his sacking illustrated the astuteness and effectiveness of experienced politicians such as Tony Windsor.

Independent voters are likely to be informed and following local issues, and less likely to follow “opinionaters”, such as Alan Jones. (It seems to me on reflection absurd to claim making offensive statements in a political meeting could be a private conversation.) However, I am surprised that the issue of coal seam gas exploration has not been strongly raised in Federal Parliament.

The rightward shift of the centre of gravity of the political spectrum reflects electioneering methodologies, and access to media, mostly developed in the US. While the problem of getting out the vote may not exist, no doubt the methods will be used in the next Australian Federal Election.

Then there is American politics in this Presidential year. Charles Duhigg in The New York Times reports:

Strategists affiliated with the Obama and Romney campaigns say they have access to information about the personal lives of voters at a scale never before imagined. And they are using that data to try to influence voting habits — in effect, to train voters to go to the polls through subtle cues, rewards and threats in a manner akin to the marketing efforts of credit card companies and big-box retailers.
. . .
Officials at both campaigns say the most insightful data remains the basics: a voter’s party affiliation, voting history, basic information like age and race, and preferences gleaned from one-on-one conversations with volunteers. But more subtle data mining has helped the Obama campaign learn that their supporters often eat at Red Lobster, shop at Burlington Coat Factory and listen to smooth jazz. Romney backers are more likely to drink Samuel Adams beer, eat at Olive Garden and watch college football.

Despite the Internet, it seems, again referencing the American example, we still live in a television democracy, although the internet is making a difference for some voters. Tim Karr observes, via Common Dreams:

The Google poll suggests that for many the Internet is becoming a haven from television lies — a place where people can ask specific political questions and, in the best scenarios, search out correct answers. Aside from Google searches, there are many useful sites for this including FactCheck.org, Politifact.com and the wiki WeCheck.org.

But that shouldn’t release local newscasts from their obligation to cover contentious political issues and call out those who use local airwaves to deceive.

Indeed, TV is where the fact-checking obligation should be the greatest. Most people cite television as their primary source for news and information, and most political speech still takes place on broadcast TV.

And while it’s true that the Internet is increasing its share of the overall audience for news, television remains our most influential communications medium: A 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that more Americans report watching local TV than any other source for news — more than the number that rely on newspapers, radio or, even, the Internet.

For this reason, TV remains extremely popular with those seeking to manipulate public opinion. Media analysts project political ad buys to exceed $3.3 billion by Election Day. That figure dwarves all estimates of online political ad spending.

Perhaps that’s why more people in battleground states are turning to the Internet in search of the truth.

But this online escape hatch is not available to all Americans. Fast, reliable broadband remains a luxury beyond the reach of many of those who live in rural and low-income communities.

According to the Commerce Department, 72 percent of Caucasians have Internet access at home, compared to only 55 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic households. Only four out of every 10 households with incomes below $25,000 and only 50 percent of rural residents have wired home Internet access.

Television access, on the other hand, is available in 97.1 percent of U.S. households, according to Nielsen. (For more on this divide, read Deepak Bhargava and Helen Brunner’s excellent article in the Hill).

The assumption that non voters are low political information people may not be true. For example, Paul Craig Roberts argues in Counter Punch, Don’t Vote for Evil.

Still The Tea Party – which I argue is a misnomer since it members are not dressed up at Native Americans with the tomahawk accessories – is concerned to get out the vote:



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