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Stacking the deck (beware of the card sharps)
The quickness of the hand can often deceive the eye and at a time like now, with a lot of distractions going on it is easy for the public to be hoodwinked.
A good example of this hoodwinking is taking place right before our eyes as this is written. It is called political polling.
Political polling is a practice which I believe should have some restrictions placed upon it in the lead-up to an election. I have no problem with pollsters from the various parties surveying the electorate to try and get a handle on how effectively or otherwise they are getting their message out. However I do have a problem with the ‘results’ of these polls being published during campaigning. Of course if their policies have been designed with the welfare of the country at the fore they should not need to do this.
Like Many Kiwis I have read Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics. As anyone who has read that book will know, it opens more than just a can of worms (a strangely appropriate word here), In fact it is more like an entire container load of the wriggly invertebrates have been given their freedom with its publication.
If one accepts the dirty tricks described in that book actually happened – and you would need to be a member of the flat earth society or an ostrich to think they are not – then it is easy to see how pollsters working for the parties could skew their results for political gain.
It is often said that the only poll that counts is the one on election day. While that is definitely true in the most literal sense, you would have to be extremely naive to think that the results of the polls being carried out right now and broadcast and analysed in excruciatingly tedious detail by political editors would have no influence upon voting.
We know how much influence advertising has upon what people buy. We also know that things reported on the TV news are invariably accepted without question by a large percentage of the population. To most the poll results are fact rather than wild guesses based upon a small sample of people and extrapolated by a mathematical equation to allegedly increase the likelihood of them being accurate. While it is true you can often be correct with predictions based upon mathematical probability, we are dealing with the behaviour of people and not machines and so many other factors can affect that particular dynamic.
Of course the polls that are being reported are being carried out by ‘respectable and recognised experts’ in the field of polling and not by party hacks. But who knows what the agenda of some of these organisations might be. What if they are being paid or in some other way induced by such shadowy figures as PR people or lobbyists to reach conclusions that are designed to affect voting?
If, for example someone who is unsure about who to vote for hears that their first choice party is doing very badly in the polls and has no show of succeeding in the election they could change their vote believing that to stick with their original choice would a waste of their vote.
If you allow for that possibility then it is easy to see how the propaganda of poll results could influence voters. A situation like that could also cause voters to react in the opposite way and stick to their guns, but as most people are not that great at sticking to their guns and generally prefer to conform, this is far less likely.
Some might think I am trying to shut down democracy, but I have no problem with people expressing their opinions as anyone who knows me will be aware. However a poll is a blunt instrument and cannot be relied upon because of the many factors that can affect its accuracy. People can lie to pollsters and very often do. People can change their minds five minutes after giving their answers and quite often do. And that is before we even get down to how accurately the person taking the poll reports it. Anyone who has ever worked for a market research company will know that interviewers are paid peanuts and given quota which they have to fill. The possibility therefore exists for interviewers to alter or otherwise stack their interviews. As it is only possible for supervisors to call back a limited number of random respondents to audit these, the scope exists for inaccurate or plain wrong information to get into the mix.
The agencies will tell you they have these whizz-bang formulae that can ‘tell’ the range of accuracy, but once again these are only mathematical formulae. You would trust them at your peril considering it is the behaviour of human beings we are talking about here.
This might sound paranoid, but the genie is well and truly out of the bottle in New Zealand politics and we now know that he is an agent of the devil.
Before I go any further I should also address the people who say that Nicky Hager’s book should not have been released at this time because of the potential effect it might have on the election.
To that I would say that if you were to stop his book coming out at this time then you would also have to stop John Key’s biography coming out at this time. The timing of that was arranged just as deliberately as Hager’s book. The main difference between the two is that Hager’s book is making New Zealanders aware of unethical and unlawful acts that are supported by evidence. Some say that as if to imply that fact makes it less reliable. However they are mistaking whistle-blowing for mischief. Mischief is raising concerns about matters that are lawful or deeply personal and nobody else’s business whereas whistle-blowing is uncovering criminal or gravely unethical behaviour that has a detrimental effect upon others. In this case the harm is to New Zealand voters in general.
In short, to dismiss Hager’s book because the evidence was obtained illegally is like saying you can’t prosecute a burglar who was caught by an illegally installed security camera.
Finally I would say to all Kiwi voters that if you are going to vote – and I think you ought if you want a change of Government - vote according to your heart and not according to what the polls say or (god forbid), strategically.
Strategic voting is a construct invented by politicians and as we all know few if any of them have ever had a decent idea (or motive) in their lives.