Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's the Voters, Stupid

Watching this campaign, it's been interesting to see various media sources and blogs assume that Canadian voters are fickle, short-sighted, and simplistic when it comes to politics. When the Tories announced their GST rebate, the general consensus was "bad policy, good politics". When the Liberals announced their hand gun ban, most people acknowledged it wouldn't make a huge difference, but that it was smart politics. Yesterday, a very serious rebuke by the US ambassador, in respect to a comment the Canadian Prime Minister should not have made, was called "manna from heaven" for the Liberals.

So, this begs the question: How much credit should we give to Canadian voters? People who surf the blogs, read the paper, and watch the nightly news are fairly well informed - that's a given. But what do people who aren't as up to date on the issues of the day base their vote on? Are they influenced by "bad policy, good politics" politics as much as we think they are?

22 Comments:

  • Depends what province. I think voters outside of Ontario see through the Paul Martin BS on hand guns and his global conscience comments, as they do the Stephen Harper GST cut. Quebec and Alberta get kudos — Quebec in particular.
    But unfortunately, Ontarians aren't that bright a bunch. They are hoopleheads. This is a province that is facing an energy crisis because its residents believe they have a God-given right to cheap electricity. (Sorry, that's a posting for another day.)
    But they are the biggest province and the one that will call the shots on Jan. 23. So, another Liberal minority.

    By Blogger The innkeeper, at 4:01 PM  

  • I've had to take back a position that I've held for a long time, that any party that offered a single point cut to the GST (or a provincial PST) would get much better politics out of it than an equivalent multi-point income tax cut.

    The fallout of the GST announcement tells me that people just don't trust any party on tax cuts right now, so neither position earns much political capital.

    I'm getting the sense that most folks are voting on personality and gut instinct alone. Maybe a quarter of voters can actually identify a specific policy that actually drives their vote.

    By Blogger The Hack, at 4:03 PM  

  • hehehehehe

    I knew this was going to happen sooner or later.

    Maybe I have to switch to "The Original Hack" or something like that. :-)

    By Blogger The Hack, at 4:04 PM  

  • I'd argue that people who don't watch the news, read the newspaper, or read blogs really don't know about ANY of the things we political junkies get excited about.

    Those people don't know what Wilkins said, who he IS, that Harper may cut the GST, or that Martin wants to outright ban handguns unless one of their news-watching friends tells them so. God, I have family members like this. Too many family members like this, in fact. They ask me who they should vote for, and I make suggestions based on what I know of their opinions.

    And that is why people going door-to-door, and general public belief of what a party stands for (true or otherwise) is a major part of determining who will govern Canada.

    By Anonymous Deanna, at 4:29 PM  

  • It doesn't matter a tinkers damn where voters reside. 80% of the general voting population can't follow the simple items that are being thrown like fish bait from the different parties , let alone any itmes that require serious thought.

    And of the remaining, most just don't really care anymore, because the whole process is so flawed, and full of vote getting hot air.

    Most of the the so far announced policies have very little real detail in how they will affect Mr and Mrs Jones and kids, and that is assuming that the elected party, actually does what it says it will do..ha ha......don't hold your breath.

    So the overwhelming apathy that politics in Canada has generated does little to entice anyone to even try to understand and vote according to the issues.....beause they don't mean anything in the long run.

    I am glad that a few of Canadians are informed, but we are the VAST minority...

    Only in Canada you say.....such a pity

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:30 PM  

  • No anonymous - not only in Canada. Our proportion of people who actually cast a ballot is higher than that of the US. They were happy when the number of voters hit around 50% in the 2004 election, since it was in the 40s before. I'd wager our percentage of voters is higher than some European countries as well - though I haven't seen any stats on that.

    By Anonymous Deanna, at 4:32 PM  

  • I give very little credit to voters, and only a little more to bloggers. There are so few of either stripe that are willing to drop their preconceived notions and party-line propaganda to actually think about things.

    Everyone wants to spin it their own way.

    Like Hack, who thinks that just because Ontario is likely to vote liberal, that they're a bunch of dolts.

    The entrenchment on both sides is something that will not be overcome, but then again, I don't see any will to do so either.

    By Blogger Teddy, at 4:38 PM  

  • I knew that sooner or later someone would say that Liberal supporters or Ontarians are the stupid uninformed bunch.

    The condescending attitude towards Ontario is sickening, especially considering Ontario is only one of two provinces sending equalization payments to the rest of the country. Perhaps it is time to show some RESPECT towards the dimwitted people of Ontario who help pay for roads, schools and Medicare in other parts of the country.

    It seems like some people seem to think that because the Liberals did something wrong you have to vote against them, even if you are an informed voter who completely disagree with the oppositions platform. These people feel that Liberal corruptions should result in an automatic implementation of Layton's or Harper's agenda.

    Thanks god for smart, generous, hardworking, and principled people of Ontario.

    By Anonymous blah, at 4:47 PM  

  • Firstly, I must commend Grit for a very provactive post! Interesting and yet so true to reality. What percentage of Canadians truly follow politics with a level of understanding necessary to make informed decisions? Methinks much less than we would all like to believe.

    Secondly, Blah, I need to point out the irony of your statement. Complaining about Ontario voters to an Albertan is hilarious. Alberta contributes twice as much to confederation per capita, and if you think Ontario is getting a rough ride, what would you classify Alberta as recieving?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:07 PM  

  • Blah and Teddy:
    Look at Ontario. Poorly governed over the last 20 years, starting with David Petterson, then Bob Rae, then Mike Harris — yes, Mike Harris — and now Dalto the dud.
    Ontarians have voted in bad governemnt after bad government and we are seeing the effects of it here — a province that is losing investment dollars to other parts of the country; home to crumbling infrastructure; and high tax rates.
    But Ontarians seem to just gobble this stuff up. They get the government they deserve. They vote in bad government after bad government and they will do their part to re-elect another Liberal government in Ottawa.

    By Blogger The innkeeper, at 5:08 PM  

  • This is an excellent question indeed. It is one of the things I try to keep an eye on, between being the person most of my friends and acquaintances use to keep them informed on the high points in the news and politics from the various parties and from simply chatting with strangers in coffee shops and other venues to get a sense of their political interest and involvement. One of the things that never ceases to pleasantly surprise me is the level of awareness of the basic political positions of the parties and leaders even from those that pay at best a cursory attention via the main news sources (papers/TV news).

    I am willing to give a fair amount of credit to the average Canadian voter myself. Now, of course each voter has their own set of priorities and issues that will determine their vote, but I really do think they pay more attention than one might think, and are making more informed opinions than many seem willing to credit/accept.

    Take my father for one example. He pays little attention to the news. He has even less an interest in political discussions, unlike my mother and myself. Indeed, whenever he hears us getting started his usual response is to flee the room to do something he is interested in. However, during election campaigns he will enter into such discussions with me, and I invariably find myself amazed at how well informed on the basics he is and the amount of consideration he has given to both the national policy aspect and the local candidate aspect. I find many Canadian voters like this, so I am very reluctant to assume that the voters are as ill informed as some seem to believe. My father being in his 60s, I think is not that atypical from his generation in terms of professional history and such, and I have seen many other of his contemporaries act in a very similar manner.

    I think it is very dangerous to underestimate the intelligence of the average Canadian voter as well as how informed their votes are.

    By Blogger Scotian, at 5:23 PM  

  • The average voter follows way less than bloggers and way more than bloggers think they do.

    Blogging about why individual announcements move or don't move polls is just the sort of naivete you expect to see on the front page of newspapers.

    Voters take in more than most bloggers assume, but on their own schedule.

    Tolkein nails it talking about a beer (and popcorn? ) proprieter:

    'You don't know much even about them, if you think old Barliman is stupid,' said Gandalf. 'He is wise enough on his own ground. He thinks less than he talks, and slower; yet he can see through a brick wall in time'

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:04 PM  

  • anonymous

    I don't see a lot of Ontarians calling Albertans idiots for voting conservative either. They generally respect your right to vote for who you believe best represents you. I have lived in Ontario and am currently living in western Canada. If I had a penny for every time I have heard people make uninformed disparaging remarks about Toronto and Ontario I would be a very rich man. I have never heard a choir of Torontonian putting down Calgary to boost their own egos. Albertan being successful doesn’t bother the average Ontarian, I am not sure if the reverse is true. Ontario is to the rest of Canada what the US is to Canada as a whole.


    Hack

    Get a clue. Despite not sitting on one of the world’s biggest deposits of oil, Ontario has been the economic engine of Canada. Second highest GDP per capita after Alberta, get back to me when the rest of Canada catches up. If the province was not burdened with massive transfer payments it would be running a huge surplus. You need to take a look at all the hundreds of construction cranes in Toronto and the surrounding area if you believe the place is crumbling.

    By Anonymous blah, at 6:04 PM  

  • I was reading that during the 2000 election, over 1 million voters based their decision to vote against Al Gore based on how much rainfall their area got (too much, too little). If that is how some voters make up their minds, we are in trouble

    By Blogger Jordon, at 6:17 PM  

  • I think the key is to look at outcomes rather than pundits. Pundits are always condescending because they think they a) know everything (hence 'pundit'), b) are the centre of attention, c) are part of the elite. Pundits are also wrong more often than they are right.

    Actual make-ups of parliament reflect very well, I think, the reletive competence and trustworthiness of each party and leader. Just look at the current minority situation and you should agree that our unelected so-called King, chosen by insiders rather than the electorate, has dropped his party to minority status. Our contender, who has insulted every region of the country except his home province, is also not doing very well. The NDP, having abandoned their union roots for the cities, is also not doing very well. The Bloc, that finally gives a home to the nationalist movement in Quebec, is doing very well.

    I think the shape of parliament really does reflect the zeitgeist of the Canadian psyche. I think it always has.

    Voters aren't easily bought off with pennies from heaven, nor are they are easily convinced by cheap showmanship like this anti-US bullshit. Voters assess leaders not on issues but on leadership skills.

    If Paul Martin looks like an assclown by making a fake fight with the Americans, he'll lose voter appeal. If Harper slaps down some idiot within his caucus, or Ralph Klein himself, in a polite but firm manner, he will gain voter appeal.

    Voters are looking for sanity. Sanity must prevail.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:35 PM  

  • Blah I wouldn't crow too much about the economic acumen of ONT. The only reason it's a have province is Canada has a cheaper $ than the US, therefore between that and not having to pay medical benefits that add up to about $3s an hour in wages Ont aquired a lot of manufacturing jobs that would have normally stayed in the US northeast.

    Oh and of course location location location. Ont manufaturing plants are located within a few hundred miles of 100 million US consumers.

    By Anonymous Jeff Cosford, at 7:32 PM  

  • Sadly, I have to agree. I talk to people who just repeat all the Liberal rhetoric. It's cool to hate small 'c' conservatives right now. Much of it comes from the American liberal media trashing Bush.

    The difference is that in Canada, we have two mainly moderate parties (look at the Liberal's track record of huge cuts to corporations), a left-leaning party, a regional party, a drug party, an envoronmental party and a few other scattered parties.

    And as an Ontarion, I will agree, too many people here buy into all the lies and don't seem to have the ability to learn from them.

    http://paulmartinlies.blogspot.com

    By Anonymous CanadianTruth, at 8:48 PM  

  • jeff cosford

    I will crow about Ontario’s success. What you described is a competitive advantage in free market economy. The people of Ontario compete in a global market place and they do so very successfully.

    Why didn't the other provinces achieve even close to the same economic successes as Ontario?

    Instead they sit around drinking beer, eating popcorn, and spend Ontario tax dollars while complain about their benefactor. (Channeling Scott Reid)

    By Anonymous Blah, at 10:57 PM  

  • I agree, Ontario is a big contributer and is well situated to maximize to American consumers and I am glad they do!

    But... doesn't it then concern the average Ontarion that Dithers mouth is proceeding to write cheques that Ontario's collective ass can't cash? Is he really doing Ontario any favours here? Wouldn't Ontario do well to just continue to capitalize off these Bush supporters and laugh all the way to the bank? Do you really want Dithers to be your spokesperson in this area?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:00 AM  

  • Pseudo-intellecutal dithering by a bunch of policy wonks. I'll tell you something: Canadians voted in a minority government. That was our collective will. Now, the dirty soul-sucking NDP has aligned itself with the seperatists and the conservatives in order to bring down OUR ELECTED government. Just in time for Christmas.

    Layton is the big loser on this, as he is seen to be morally bankrupt. Hopefully the NDP finally loses official party status so we don't have to listen to their whining anymore.

    The Bloc will pick up a few seats (thanks conservatives!)

    Though it will be close, I do predict once again that the Liberals will be returned to power. We're esentialy having a taxpayer funded game of musical chairs that is going to result in little or no effectve change.

    Hope you're happy, small 'c' conservatives...now we can waste money having the election you so desperately needed.

    On the subject of Canadian voter stupidity: by and large we have a nuanced understanding of politics, something which drives the 'dyed-in-the-wool' type true believers nuts. 1 million dollars is not a scandal.

    Harper would have sent our boys in to die in the mess that is Iraq, because of his American ass-kissery. That's a scandal. And that's gonna keep him out of office.

    FYI,
    Peak Oil

    (PS: Happy Holidays)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:59 AM  

  • Anonymous

    You are correct that most Ontarians don't want "dithers" to be their spokesman.

    It's just too bad that he is still a better alternative to Harper or Layton.

    By Anonymous blah, at 8:51 AM  

  • There are plenty of misinformed people out there. They vote based on conversations at bars and Tim Hortons. And it is everywhere. Toronto, Calgary everywhere. They are all around us every day. These people choose to ignore politics yet they will still vote! Sometimes I envy them. Ignorance is bliss.

    As for the whole Ontario voter IQ debate happening, what a load. Ontarions vote Liberal not because they are stupid and not becuase they believe bullshit promises. It is because the CPC is still seen to be linked to a party that Ontario NEVER got along with, the Reform party.

    We have a long memory out here. We even remember when Alberta was hat in hand to the rest of the country. We just try not to mention it, because Alberta's new found success makes us money too. Anyway, it seems to me that the more centrist the CPC gets the more palatable they are over here.

    By Anonymous Michael, at 11:53 AM  

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