Last week ended with a wonderful bit of insight into where televised political debates figure into an election campaign.
Before you go any farther into this post just stop for a second and think of all the media chatter last week about the debate, what the strategies were supposed to be and then what the fall-out was after the whole thing was over.
Now with that load of crap firmly in front of your mind’s eye, look at some of the results from Market Quest Omnifacts’ poll released last week. look at the bit about the election.
Only one third of those polled actually watched the debate. Some news media played up the fact that 36% thought Kathy won, 22% picked Lorraine and some small percentage thought Kevin Aylward came out on top. The rest thought no one came out on top.
What likely slid by most people was the fact that only about one third of those polled actually watched the debates at all. MQO then presented the picks as if 100% watched.
That’s a fine an example as you can get of how some pollsters mislead people when they ignore the undecideds in their poll results on party choice and tell you only what the decideds said.
You see, two thirds of those polled had something better to do than watch the debates.
That’s the real story for that question: 66% were combing their armpit hair or something else that was more pressing than listening to the province’s three party leaders discuss what they’d do if they got the chance to run the province for the next four years.
A mere 12% of those polled thought Dunderdale won the debate. Lorraine impressed the bejesus out of seven percent and Kevin picked up two percent of respondents.
13% thought neither of them won.
The debate itself was not some sort of major event for most people in the province. As a result, the debate itself was just one more thing they might see as part of the campaign’s communications alongside print ads, a brochure, radio and TV spots and stuff that is cropping up on social media.
You’d have to dig into some hard numbers on audience share for the broadcast to get a better sense of how the debate stacks up in impact compared to the others. Based on experience, your humble e-scribbler would say the debate itself mattered a lot less than other stuff including, incidentally, the media hype, torque, spin and general bullshit that surrounded it.
Include in that general bullshit the way Nalcor’s pollster reported the results:
When asked about the leaders’ debate, 34 per cent of those polled said they watched the televised leaders’ debate on Wednesday, September 28. Of those respondents who watched the debate, 36 per cent felt Kathy Dunderdale won the debate, while Lorraine Michael was seen as the winner by 22 per cent, and six per cent said Kevin Aylward came out on top. The remainder of respondents said there was no clear winner of the debate.
That got into news stories almost word for word. Here’s the way the Telly reported it, for example:
Thirty-four per cent of those polled said they watched the televised leaders’ debate on Wednesday. Of those who watched the debate, 36 per cent felt PC Leader Kathy Dunderdale won, while 22 per cent saw NDP Leader Lorraine Michael as the winner, and six per cent said Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward came out on top.
The remainder of respondents said there was no clear winner.
Nothing, as some famous politician once said, could be further from the truth.
But you can bet lots of people last week were misled into believing Kathy Dunderdale emerged the clear winner of the debate last week in the opinion of other ordinary voters. They’d get that idea as a result of the way the poll results wound up in the news fare.
And that message, carried by the province’s news media as if it were true, likely had a much bigger impact than Kathy Dunderdale’s comments on the night.
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