Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: Meet the middle

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  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    On that question, there's only a small majority of *actual righties* that agree with it. It's a pretty divisive question. I get swallowing dead rats that are well and truly lost causes, but when it's a close run thing even on their side? And a majority of centrists agree with you that it's a rat?

    First, the actual arguments parties run aren't generally about whether "dole = bludger" or not. That's just the opinion poll question. For me, the poll gives us how relatively receptive centrists are to left / right arguments about the morality of welfare and personal responsibility. And to my eye, it says they're more receptive to right arguments than left ones on that issue.

    Second, nobody's talking about swallowing any rats. Left parties need left policies, as I said in the post. But parties do get to think carefully about what they say first when they talk to a voter. If the voter's view on an issue is likely closer to your opponent's than to yours, you might choose to talk about something else first.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    But, even with that qualifier, the actual swing voters hiding among the "Im a centrists" are the ones who eventually decide the election, so it's probably better to take them seriously.

    I just think the best way to win these people is to 'be good at politics' rather than make all sorts of policy and value compromises that these voters almost certainly do not care about.

    In the UK context, Labour Party centrists attacking Jeremy Corbyn as a radical communist are being terrible at politics. He's going to be the next leader and screaming that the de facto leader is unelectable is just stupid. You notice how disaffected National factions DIDN'T do that with Don Brash?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Bill Eaton,

    In a democracy, the voters get to decide where the centre is. Currently, National loses most votes to NZ First (to the left) and Labour loses most to the Greens (likewise.)

    The electorate's idea of the centre may be somewhat to the left of the National/Labour consensus.

    And yes of course there are other factors than just the left/right thing.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2014 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Like Trotter hearing it as "I believe in nothing".

    That got me too. We used to call them "Libertarians" or the "Radical Don't Knows".
    They do believe, they believe that hard work will get you where you want to be, that people that can't or don't want to work are holding them back, that they have no responsibility for anyone but themselves and their family. They are the non-ideological, they know little of history and aspire to be like those they admire, the celebrities and the wealthy.
    I have said, many times before, we were told that automation would give us more leisure time, guess how well that turned out.
    The fact is that unless we invent useless jobs for the masses we will have an ever increasing number of "unemployed" who will take responsibility for those people? it is of no fault of their own. We have the opportunity to create an idyllic existence for the whole world but there are those that still think that if they have the money then they should rule and sod the lazy dole bludging poor.
    What do we do with all those "unemployed" people? well, they shoot horses don't they?.
    We have come to a point in history where we have to re-evaluate what a Human is,. are we Human beings or should we be merely regarded as Human Doings?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    Then you have a decision to make of "should I press this rhetorical button or not?" In the absence of better data, the group averages are a good initial guide.

    You could be guided by what you genuinely believe to be for the best :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    You could be guided by what you genuinely believe to be for the best :)

    That is what guides us when we make policy.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Sam Bradford,

    This approach is essentially telling people what they want to hear, right?
    Stay quiet about the policies you suspect they won't like, emphasise the ones they're likely to be sympathetic to.

    This ignores the appeal of Corbyn/Trump/Tsipras figures (and I know it's weird to lump them together), which is that they are willing to take 'risky' stands. A whole lot of voters, particularly former non-voters, respect that in itself. As many is this thread have pointed out, many people have contradictory left-right tendencies and vote on the basis of personality or perceived competence. Appearing to really stand for something is part of that. Political dialogue has not degenerated as far towards complete meaninglessness here as it has in the UK and US, because MMP allows our parties to delineate themselves better, but it's still like pulling teeth to get a Labour or National leader to say anything that the hypothetical centrist voter might disagree with.

    There are trends and fashions in politics, and I think the New Labour style is on the way out with good reason. For a while the Clark/Blair approach worked well, applying tourniquets as the welfare state rotted and inequality increased, but bold decisions will have be to be made. If a politician is afraid to speak boldly, why should I believe they'll act boldly?

    New Zealand • Since Jul 2014 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    Isn't the 'gap' smaller between the centre and the right because the right isn't really united on this view that dole=bludger?

    Spot on. If 75/33 + 54/33 + 47/33 do NOT think dole = bludger, that's a solid majority of 58.6% of voters.
    Yet somehow that's justification for adopting right wing thinking/framing on this issue?

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Can I clarify something? In this discussion the word "centrist" means people who self-identified that way?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    I just think the best way to win these people is to ‘be good at politics’ rather than make all sorts of policy and value compromises that these voters almost certainly do not care about.

    I agree with the first part, but for my 2c part of "being good at politics" is "taking voters' views seriously. "

    Also, for the Nth time today, nobody's talking about policy compromise.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I ask this because self-identifying as centrist is not the way a lot of people use the term. They use it to mean “people in the center” although they seldom explain in detail how they define the center.

    ETA: Furthermore, when they do define the center, it’s often the case that it’s a different definition for different people. Which is why defining it is something people often won’t do.

    ETA2: Which is furthermore why I find using self-identification as a better way of doing it. At least that part is indisputable. It doesn't matter if other people think I'm not centrist - it matters what I think.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Sam Bradford,

    Also, for the Nth time today, nobody's talking about policy compromise.

    OK, so how does this work?
    You keep your principled policies, but refuse to talk about the ones that might prove unpopular?
    I guess it works often enough for National.

    New Zealand • Since Jul 2014 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Sam Bradford,

    If a politician is afraid to speak boldly, why should I believe they'll act boldly?

    Quite.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to BenWilson,

    In the data I'm using (2011 NZES), respondents were asked to place all parties on a 1-10 left-right scale, and then also place themselves on the scale.

    The people I've labelled centrists here place Labour to the left of their self-placement, and place National to the right of their self-placement.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to BenWilson,

    I find using self-identification as a better way of doing it. At least that part is indisputable.

    Well if you are talking purely about yourself then that's fine but I feel that self-identification can be misleading if the person making that decision is making that decision from an uninformed or even misinformed position. Believing that Labour is all for "Nanny State" and the Greens are just plain loony will make a decision in favour of Mr. Smile and Wave cuz he's such a successful chap.
    Labour and the greens, have to get across to the, so called, Middle New Zealander that they are making a big mistake in thinking National has their best interests at heart.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    The people I’ve labelled centrists here place Labour to the left of their self-placement, and place National to the right of their self-placement.

    Interesting way of doing it, rather than just using their own self-identification itself. So you yourself are defining centrist in terms of its relation to Labour and National, which is not how the respondents did it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Not that I have a better way of interpreting their centrism necessarily. But looking at self-identification, it seems to me that the numbers on the left are much less than the one-third you put into the post. People answering with 0 through to 4 (where 5 was dead center) only total 30% of the total respondants (excluding non respondants and don’t knows). That’s an upper limit on left-of-center as self-reported. Whereas the right side, respondant answering 6 through to 10 were 45% of the total – more than twice as many people self reported being on that side as on the left.

    (Having fun with this data, btw…practicing some R)

    ETA: For comparison, the score of 5 covered the other 25%. And corrected my above number for the left to 30%...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to BenWilson,

    Interesting way of doing it, rather than just using their own self-identification itself. So you yourself are defining centrist in terms of its relation to Labour and National, which is not how the respondents did it.

    In my initial post, I simply called those people "in between Labour and National," which I reckon is fair enough.

    If you re-cut the numbers by self-identified 5 out of 10's on the left-right scale, I imagine you'll find pretty similar patterns.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Attachment

    Just for comparison, then I have to split: Piccy of the proportions….hope it works.

    ETA: Yay!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    First, the actual arguments parties run aren’t generally about whether “dole = bludger” or not.

    I get that.

    That’s just the opinion poll question.

    Yes.

    For me, the poll gives us how relatively receptive centrists are to left / right arguments about the morality of welfare and personal responsibility. And to my eye, it says they’re more receptive to right arguments than left ones on that issue.

    This is the part don't understand

    To my eye it looks a like a large majority of the left, a slim majority of the centre, and a slim minority of the right agree withe each other, and together form an outright majority population wide.

    I get that the Q itself is a proxy for whole bunch of other things, but doesn't the data (which we are using for a proxy) suggest that slightly over half of the centre, and slightly under half of the right, agree with the left here?

    I don't get how you see it as meaning 'the centre' agrees with the slight majority of the right.

    Both of those two groups are split down the middle on how they view it, aren't they?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    I get that the Q itself is a proxy for whole bunch of other things, but doesn’t the data (which we are using for a proxy) suggest that slightly over half of the centre, and slightly under half of the right, agree with the left here?

    One thing to note here is that there's a lot in the framing of that question. I recall one poll while Labour in government which had a surprisingly high number of self-professed Green voters taking a pretty harsh stance on beneficiaries – more than Labour voters, from memory.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22807 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Being a centrist is about marketing as much as anything else. Don Brash is the most radical, ideological party-leader we've ever had in New Zealand (with the arguable exception of Hone Harawira) yet he branded himself as 'mainstream' and came incredibly close to winning a general election.

    The kindest assessment of Brash would be that he might have been marginally aware of how he was being "rebranded", but it's doubtful if he understood the implications. The moment in the leaders' debate where Clark challenged him to clearly state whether or not she was "mainstream" gave the impression of someone struggling to remember the lines he'd been fed, rather than any kind of sentient strategist. This was the guy who let John Ansell impersonate him on Kiwiblog, ffs.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    The kindest assessment of Brash would be that he might have been marginally aware of how he was being “rebranded”, but it’s doubtful if he understood the implications.

    The other thing about that election was that McCully was running around promising conservative Christian groups (and the Brethren) that they'd be deeply socially conservative in government. There was a lot of conflicting messaging going on to different audiences.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22807 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    The people I've labelled centrists here place Labour to the left of their self-placement, and place National to the right of their self-placement.

    That might explain the FPP flavour then.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    That might explain the FPP flavour then.

    Yes, and it goes to my second comment - that self-identification makes a lot more sense to me than what Rob used. That's Rob's definition of a centrist - is it better than Chris Trotters? I don't know. Certainly if we're going with the vibe of:

    But rule 2 in politics is “perception is reality.” That includes the perceptions of people you might not agree with. If they think they’re in the middle, then they are.

    ...then you have to conclude that actually a lot more people are right wing than left wing...right off the bat. Because that's what they said they were.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

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