NEWS AND VIEWS
| Monday, March 12, 2007
Pollsters Always Find Johnny Mercer Fans
Ask voters anywhere what they think about politicians slinging off at each other and the answer invariably is that they hate it and wish it didn't happen. People always say their representatives should accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. And the politicians keep right on ignoring Johnny Mercer's lyric and continue to make disparaging remarks about each other which pollsters like ACNeilsen in today's Fairfax press find angers and annoys those they question.
How can this be? Why do political campaigns ignore such findings as four fifths of people not caring about the Brian Burke affair and carry on attacking?
For the very good reason that electoral history has shown the politicians that on election-day, negative campaigning regularly works. The very same people who tell the pollster they abhor person attacks end up being influenced by them
So with the headlines after a fortnight of Liberals accusing Kevin Rudd of dealing with a spiv for his own political advancement and the pollsters reporting Labor facing a Ruddslide, there will be no backing off. The probes in to the integrity of the Labor Leader will not just continue but intensify as really desperate men start to say and do really desperate things.
There is a risk in the strategy. In the United States where the art of negative campaigning was refined, the absence of compulsory voting means that making a person so sick of politics that they do not bother to vote can be as good as winning a vote. In Australia where over 90 percent of people vote rather than under 50 percent as in the US , a campaign that is too negative can rebound. The people revolted by negative tactics have the option of punishing the tacticians by voting for a third party or independents.
The way things are shaping up, the Greens can look forward to a record high vote.
A Judgment on Inexperience
The battle of the keywords is now well under way as Labor and the Coalition struggle to damage their opposing leader. For Labor the recent task has been portraying John Howard as one of those clever politicians who are too tricky by half. For the Liberals the emphasis is on the words judgment and inexperience as they search to find a way of turning Labor's superman leader back into a mere political Clark Kent .
Treasurer Peter Costello was at the forefront of the attack a month ago -
Prime Minister John Howard recently stepped up the description.
Joe Hockey showed his ability to follow a party line on the same day as the PM -
Perhaps the real lack of experience was shown when the Opposition Leader was caught using one of the Liberal words about himself.
Immigration Minister Julie Bishop had clearly read her briefing notes too.
As the Rudd meetings with Brian Burke received greater publicity so did the use of judgment and experience.
And the PM again
Soon even the underlings were at it.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews sought to broaden the attack on Labor beyond just Mr Rudd.
Even the Japanese press were introduced to the concept at a Prime Ministerial press conference in Tokyo .