Some people keep asking how Tony Abbott won the election. When they’re told that not everyone thinks like they do, they’ll sneer that some people don’t think at all. And they’re possibly right, but not in the way they expect.
Let’s start with the ABC Vote Compass, which according to the website:
“Vote Compass is an educational tool developed by a non-profit group of political scientists and hosted by the ABC. Answer a short series of questions to discover how you fit in the Australian political landscape.”
So, for those of you who didn’t try it, people were asked to do a survey on how they felt about individual issues and then they were told which party was most closely aligned to their world view.
It’s only when one stops and considers this, that it becomes either frightening or obvious. Or both. So, in spite of the fact that the election was in full swing, in spite of extensive coverage of politics, it was perceived by the ABC that people wouldn’t be aware enough to know which party – in their view – had the best policies. And some people – not just the “uneducated masses” brainwashed by the Murdoch Media – were commenting that the result surprised them
Why do people vote for particular parties? Well, to simplify it into three possible reasons.
In many cases, we have the rusted on party faithful. These will justify any decision their party makes with the same sort of rationality that a football fan views a decision that goes against their team. A classical example of this is the way the Liberals approach the Geoff Shaw situation compared with the way they demanded that Craig Thomson be treated. I should add that, at this point, neither has been convicted of a crime by a court. These people are unlikely to change their vote whatever happens. If someone on their side of politics is found to be rorting the system, it’s only the guilty individual who should be held responsible, but if someone on the other side is doing exactly the same, it will be “typical” and a reflection on the whole party.
In other cases, it’ll be a first impression. “I don’t like that man, so I’ll won’t vote for him”. It’s possible to overcome this, but research does tend to suggest that first impressions count. You probably have the job within thirty seconds of the interview starting, or else you have no hope. And, of course, because many people find politics boring that first impression may no occur until an election campaign starts or on the day they go to vote, so this “first impression” may not be when a politician first become leader.
But for many, it’s what they hear other people saying:
In the 1950’s, Solomon Asch did an experiment involving matching a straight line with one of the three straight lines to the right. Did the line match line A, B or C? It was perfectly straightforward and quite obvious that the line matched line C. However, the experiment was about conformity. The subject was required to answer after the other members of the group (who were part of the experiment) had all given the wrong answer. The results found that approximately 30% followed the group, even though their response was clearly incorrect.
And I suspect that this may help explain the incredible result at the last Federal election. I say incredible, not just because of the election of some of Palmer’s PUP pets, but because Abbott was elected in spite of the fact that very few people agreed with any of his policies. Check out the polls on individual areas. Health, Education, the Carbon tax – even that wasn’t something that concerned people.
No, Abbott was elected because he had a large number of people telling us that Gillard was the “worst PM in history”. When asked as to what she’d done that was so bad, these people would refer to the home insulation scheme and school halls – both of which occurred under Kevin Rudd. And that she was treacherous by “knifing” Kevin Rudd in the back. (Unlike Abbott who promised not to run against Turnbull, but then did.)
Strangely though, when Kevin was returned to the leadership, we were told that he too was the “worst Prime Minister” we’d ever had, followed by a series of ads where we were told to take notice of what ex-Ministers had said about him. (The same ex-Ministers whose opinion was wrong on everything else.)
The policies were of no consequence – it was the repeated message that gained a consensus amongst those only took a minor interest in politics. It was the repeated message that people took in without thinking about it. It’s not that it would have been impossible to make people aware of the issues, it’s just that a repeated message is very powerful!
Now that Abbott is in Government, he hopes to ride a wave of improving economic conditions world-wide and to blame all unpopular decisions on the previous government. We may start to hear a new repeated message about how this was necessary because of the “incompetence” of the previous government. Like Labor’s request to raise the debt ceiling to a total of $300 billion was the end of civilization as we know it, but Hockey is just raising by a further $200 billion is just a temporary thing till we get the budget back under control.
If you want to get rid of Abbott, then I suggest simple message be repeated as often as possible for the next year or so:
“When are they going to stop blaming Labor and get on with fixing things.”
After that, this one might be appropriate:
“At least Labor were building things like the NBN with their deficit, what are the Liberals doing?”