In the most recent poll to hit the stands, people’s tolerance for polls is at an all time low. The same poll indicated that, if the cat party gives its preferences to cream, it won’t have to deal with the mouse party to gain a majority in the Senate.
Look closely for the clever metaphor in that last sentence.
Nah, just kidding, there isn’t one. It’s fairly meaningless. It’s similarly meaningless to waste people’s time by regularly asking a relatively small number of people who they’re likely to vote for, when an election is just around the corner and we’re going to know for sure anyway. The sad thing is, poll results are influential, both in terms of feeding back into policy and in swaying public opinion. That bugs me on both counts.
The first is that policy should run deeper than two-party preferred numbers, especially when changes fall within or close to a poll’s margin of error. Of course, policy isn’t generated and planned based on poll numbers, but it’s naive to think that the timing and nature of spending announcements and such aren’t manipulated in response to fluctuations in popularity as measured by polls.
In other words, if a political party wants to know what we want it to do about a certain issue, they should ask us, not get a third party to find out if we like their vaguely explained idea more than the other guys.
The second is that polls have become far more newsworthy than they should be. Each new result drives a fresh wave of speculation about causes and effects from every corner of the mainstream media. I can ignore that to some extent because speculating seems to be what a lot of media is about these days. I am more concerned that people will pay attention to the poll results as some kind of indicator of political performance, which they’re not.
There’s a tempting analogy with the sharemarket, where rises and falls can feed back on themselves as the collective ‘mood’ changes. The reasons behind share prices changes may have nothing to do with actual company performance and profitability, in the same way that opinion polls can swing without an underlying change in political activity.
In other words, polls are held up as markers of performance, when they’re really just opinion-driven. People’s political preferences will change based on a wide variety of factors, many of which are unrelated to what the actual political parties are doing. Of course, poor political performance may translate to a slide in the polls, but (for example) an advertising scare campaign can change people’s perception and polled preference even if the politicians are doing what they’ve always done.
Giving weight to the opinions of others is something we do innately, but I feel that when making a decision about who should govern our country, we should set aside perceived popularity and look closely at what each political party offers, both for our personal benefit and the widespread benefit of Australians now and into the future.
tl;dr: Screw polls, think for yourself.
Normal photo-blog transmission will resume; I just had to get that off my chest.