Thursday, March 10, 2011

Breaking the pattern. Or not.

Another poll out there showing an unfavourable situation for the Liberal Party, and for Michael Ignatieff, generating the usual reaction on all sides. Other recent polls have been equally unfavourable, others slightly less so. Still, some undeniable patterns have emerged, and they’re worth considering briefly.

What the polls, particularly the leadership figures, show largely is the power of multi-million dollar ad buys. Advertising can work, particularly when the buy is massive and you’re the only ones doing the talking. Thanks to their massive fundraising advantage over the other parties, but particularly the Liberals who, years later, still haven’t adjusted to the no longer new fundraising regime, the Conservatives enjoy the ability to negatively define their opponents with an advertising blitz, knowing their opponents don’t have the ability to effectively counter-punch.

Leadership numbers can be over-hyped, but they shouldn’t be dismissed. They’re not everything – the NDP likes to trumpet Jack Layton’s high leadership numbers, but they’re not giving much air to NDP support numbers: Jack raises the brand, but only so far. Leadership numbers can be a drag on party support numbers though, and we’re definitely seeing that. We may elect 308 MPs but in Canadian politics, leaders matter.

Now, we can bemoan the situation. We can call for intra-election spending caps. Campaign finance reform. We can release attack ads attacking attack ads. It does nothing to change the reality: the ad advantage this fundraising gap enables allows the Conservatives to go into any election campaign with a built-in advantage, and forces their opponents to always have to play from behind. And whining ain’t gonna change anything. People are tuned-out from politics, they are influenced by ads, and that’s that. (Though we should really figure out how to raise money one of these days)

We saw the pattern before with Stephane Dion, and we’re seeing it again with Michael Ignatieff. Going into an election handicapped is a burden, but it’s not an insurmountable one. Between elections, the Conservative money advantage is formidable. But the spending caps of the campaign period are a leveler and more people tune in to see what’s what, if only briefly.

So while they tune in with a pre-conceived negative notion of the opposition leader that needs to be overcome, one of two things will happen. Either what they see from the leader will reinforce the negative preconceptions forged by advertising, or it will shatter their preconceptions and lead to a re-evaluation by voters.

It can go either way. With Dion, while he improved as the campaign went on, his poor skills as a retail politician on the trail played into the negative narrative the Conservatives had planted with their pre-writ ads, and the perception was cemented in the minds of Canadians. When the next campaign begins, it will be up to Michael Ignatieff what story is written. Lowered expectations are great, and the public’s expectations of him couldn’t be much lower, but they’re only great if you can beat them.

It can go either way. But it’s important to emphasize it CAN go either way. So I don’t worry that much about every poll, although of course I am disappointed we’re not doing better. But I think we’re doing the right things on the opposition front, we’re making the right moves on the policy front, and we’re doing the right things on the organizational front. And I believe Michael Igntieff will prove to be a formidable campaigner, and he’ll surprise some people.

Once we’re into a campaign, we’ll either break the pattern, or we won’t. Until then, talk is cheap.

Well, for the governing party, at least.

(Photo source)

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The Rat said...

When it comes to Liberal fund raising I don't think it is about the party learning to do it so much as it is about members and supporters opening up their own wallets, for a change. I think that represents a fundamental difference in the parties and not simply a lack of skill or technique on the Liberal 'raiser's part. Conservatives believe in individual responsibility and small government while Liberals believe in collective responsibility and a role for government in almost everything. It is aptly reflected in the way individual supporters fund their parties.

I especially like the swipe many Liberals take that the 75% rebate on political donations represents some kind of public subsidy. Honestly, as a CPC donor, I don't think about nor care about the tax receipt.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when someone was going to connect the dots on fundraising. When individual Canadians are responsible for a political partys economic survival, and, when only one party is raising gobs of cash while the others struggle, thats the only poll you should need. Its funny to hear the complaints about attack ads by the same people who support a taxpayer subsidy of political partys, remove the subsidy, stand on your own merits, and, there wont be enough money for attack ads. The removal of party subsidys would benefit one party, the Liberals, because, it would force them to get back to being what they once were, a centre grass routes party.

marie said...

The Rat and gwilliamjr:

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility and small government while Liberals believe in collective responsibility and a role for government in almost everything. It is aptly reflected in the way individual supporters fund their parties.

What the Cons believe and what they do is contrary about small governments. The biggest Canadian government in Canada’s history, and the most expensive one as well. These creeps cannot be believed anything they say or do. They are nothing but a bunch of bullies liars and manipulators and yet you blinded brain washed trolls still support them even after the Cons being caught in their shady dealings. It doesn’t say much for their supporters either. .

How about the Cons using tax dollars and their offices to fund raise. Doesn’t that even wave a flag in your narrow minded brain drained sculls? That is an act of criminal behavior and yet you zombies nod your hands clap like the dim light bulbs. If Harper though he could gain, he’d screw the lot of you as well while you remain in your zombie states. Kennedy is a prime example of this as immigration minister and what about the thousands given to ouilet for severance pay and a gag order. Criminals the lot of them How any Canadian can support these criminals is beyond my range of thinking, and this has been going on since they became government.

You people have very selective memories and very short attention span similar to dementia and the very old.

Man you guys must love to be manipulated and very forgetful, (dementia)

Elections please, the sooner the better. BTW, Harper can throw out all the attack ads he wants as long as he doesn’t use tax dollars. To do so which has proven so far he has. That will only cost him more of your monies but when we are actually in a real campaign after the writ is dropped, real intelligent Canadians and the Media will see how wrong the cons and his parrots are wrong about Ignatieff. I would rather vote for a Harvard graduate than a filing clerk in a mail room who is far out of his league and a ministry of jokers with jobs beyond their ability.

This is my rant for today and man I feel so much better handing out barbs like you trolls are fond of doing. 24/7.

WhigWag said...

On the fundraising thing & the Cons' false sense of pride at how that shows how much grassroots support the party's got:

well, that's partly true, when it's just examined as being something like twice as much as the Libs' donation numbers;

but don't kid yourselves -- or try to B.S. the rest of us:

it's still mighty shallow support. (and even shallower means of getting it, but that's another story).

Only about 100,000 of you are individual donors in a given a year. Out of over 5 million voters. I.e., less than two percent.

So quit talking smack like you're on a high horse... you don't even get up to the stirrups of true public commitment, according to that (rather dubious) measure, of wanting people to put their money to make the Party's mouths work.