Vot­ers at heart of po­lit­i­cal emo­tion

Manawatu Standard - - NEWS - THOMAS MANCH

More than half of vot­ers knew who they were go­ing to vote for be­fore the 2017 elec­tion cam­paign even be­gan.

And it wasn’t pol­icy that de­cided them - and it prob­a­bly won’t be pol­icy that sways the rest.

And if you think polls don’t mat­ter - think again.

When the coun­try heads to the bal­lot box on Satur­day, most won’t be voting with their heads.

De­spite at­tempts by all par­ties to push ev­i­dence-based pol­i­tics, ex­perts agree that pol­i­tics is more of a bat­tle for hearts.

Massey Univer­sity pro­fes­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­sign Claire Robin­son said 64 per cent of vot­ers made up their minds well be­fore an elec­tion cam­paign. ‘‘We call them blindly loyal. ‘‘They ac­tu­ally don’t look at any ev­i­dence, they just go by their gut and their ex­pe­ri­ence and who they tended to vote for in the past.

‘‘It’s quite funny - you’ll find some very well-ed­u­cated, highly in­tel­li­gent, well-read pol­icy people them­selves who will claim they vote on pol­icy, but ac­tu­ally don’t. They vote on heart and habit.’’

Late-de­cid­ing vot­ers tended to be less at­tached to a par­tic­u­lar party and were swayed by ap­pear­ance, head­lines, pic­tures, slo­gans and - in par­tic­u­lar - polls.

‘‘You can’t re­ally pick who is go­ing to be at­tracted to what kind of cue.’’

It’s likely for this rea­son that the ‘‘ev­i­dence-based’’ mantra of Gareth Mor­gan’s The Op­por­tu­ni­ties Party con­tin­ues to poll be­low 2 per cent.

Robin­son sym­pa­thised with Mor­gan’s ev­i­dence-based plight, say­ing his party’s poli­cies de­served wider dis­cus­sion.

‘‘They want to show ev­i­dence be­cause they haven’t got people who are blindly loyal to them … I think it’s pretty good that they’re hang­ing out at 2 per cent. Vot­ers do start re­ward­ing par­ties that stick around.’’

In­de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Ed­ward Elder said ev­i­dence failed as a key con­sid­er­a­tion at the bal­lot box be­cause vot­ers were mo­ti­vated by de­sire.

‘‘The very ba­sic fun­da­men­tals of ad­ver­tis­ing are that de­ci­sions are made on emo­tions backed up by rea­son.

‘‘Look at a car ad­vert - they drive through the moun­tains and the streams, then they talk about fuel ef­fi­ciency.’’

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