Tip for politicians: how to win voters’ hearts

August 15th, 2010

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There was this story about two men being chased by a bear. As both of them were running for their lives, one man told the other,

There’s no way we can outrun the bear. Why don’t we play dead instead?

The other man replied,

No, I don’t have to outrun the bear. All I need is to outrun YOU!

Alas! This is the current state of affairs for Australian politics. Political parties don’t have to come up with good policies. All they need is to be less bad than the next viable alternative. Next Saturday, as Australians go to the polls to vote for the next government, they will have to choose between bad alternatives. We find both major political parties have much to be desired. Both of them are almost indistinguishable from each other as they steer their policies to optimise their re-election prospects. As for the minor parties, some of their policies are based on good principles. However, they also have some other wacky (or extreme) ideologies mixed in as well.

So, the winner of this Saturday’s Federal election will go to the party that is least bad in the eyes of voters. Our guess is that the Labor Party will win the election. So far, the punts from betting agencies are agreeing with us.

The important question is, why would Labor be more likely to win?

The answer (as we will reveal later), reminds us of this simple phrase borrowed from Bill Clinton’s campaign:

It’s the economy, stupid.

Back in 1992, George H W Bush’s approval rating fell from 90% in March 1991 to 36% in the space of 15 months. He lost because he was perceived to have failed to address the economy adequately.

In Australia, we think the phrase should be:

It’s the jobs, stupid.

Back in 2007, the NSW Labor Party government won the election despite being one of the most incompetent governments in the world. We have no doubt that the electorate despised the NSW Labor Party. As this Wikipedia article wrote,

The newspaper editorials on the eve of the election held little cheer for either party. The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph had each endorsed Labor at the 2003 election. Though each newspaper expressed misgivings about Debnam’s campaigning ability and called the result in Labor’s favour, they were unanimous in their attack on Iemma’s record.

If this election campaign has proved anything, it is this: Labor has completely lost its way on policy ? and the Liberals are no good at politics … However, after 12 years, Labor’s sustained policy failures should count for more than five weeks’ incompetent Liberal campaigning. If anything, the fact that spin-driven Labor has shown that it is vastly better at politics is of itself a reason to chuck them out.

So, how did they win the election? Our opinion is that the voters feared that the NSW Liberals would hand industrial relations powers to the Federal Government (under Liberal-National coalition at that time), which was pushing through the highly controversial WorkChoice legislation.

In late 2007, the Australian economy was still doing well and had an uninterrupted economic growth for more than a decade under the Liberal-National coalition. Since the status quo was good enough (or at least not bad enough), why did voters risk with the largely unknown Kevin Rudd and gave the Liberal-National coalition the sack in the 2007 Federal election? Again, the issue was because John Howard pushed his luck too far with the WorkChoice legislation.

Fast forward to early 2010. Why was Kevin Rudd’s mining super-profit tax very unpopular among the mining states of Queensland and Western Australia? Again, the idea was that the mining tax will kill mining investment projects and by implication, threaten jobs.

Today, with less than a week to the election, the Federal Labor had turned the tables against the perception that the Coalition is better at economic management and successfully painted the idea that Tony Abott (as Prime Minister) is a risk to the economy. With the economic crisis still unfolding in the US and Europe, voters could easily see what a bad economy can do to job security. To plunge the nail further into the coffin, some of Labor’s campaign commercials seek to fan suspicion of Tony Abott’s future intention with WorkChoice.

In Australia, it seemed to us that the way to the voters’ heart is through his/her job. If our theory is right, why do you think job security is so sacred for the average Australian voter?

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  • Pete

    I like this article, particularly that story at the start :)

    I think you have hit the nail on the head regarding the sanctity of employment. Hard to say why exactly. Is it because we are ‘Aussie battlers’? Is it because we are generally too stupid to understand economics and trade because we are an isolated island nation with only distant neighbours? Is it because we are used to low unemployment levels around 5%? Is it because most of us are so far in debt that losing our job would mean losing our home?

    It is probably the latter. Socialism, here we come!

  • Castor

    I have no doubt it’s the debt. Australians are so full to the eyeballs in debt. Once you lose your job, you’re a goner.

  • Ademac

    I agree its the debt, that and most Australians are too stupid to think for themeselves. Just watch TV belive the spin and keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

    We wont get the govenment we need, we will get what we deserve.

  • Pete

    I thought someone should start a ‘Donkey’ party…someone to collect all the donkey votes.

    They’d have some pretty good tag lines…something like “Vote with your ass” or something like that. It’s not rude because it’s a pun ;)

    The mission statement could include something about giving no preferential votes to anyone. Perhaps then the voter apathy can be made quite clear.

    Although, I do believe that part of the problem is the journalism – it’s just not up to scratch, not doing its job at all. If the best we have is Mark Latham then you know something is majorly wrong.

  • Rufus

    You have me laughing in stiches!! :-P