02 September 2011

The Old Blue Goose

When the three posts on the provincial Conservatives’ communications strategy first appeared here in August and September 2006,  people who had never heard of it thought the ideas were preposterous.

The relatively small number of people in the province who knew what is going on  - politicians, political staffers and some media types - tried to dismiss it as irrelevant or as old news.

Five years later, the basic ideas are known to anyone who follows political stories in the local conventional media.  Once someone pointed out the patterns, others started to notice them too.

Then two professors at Memorial University did some research and confirmed the pattern of calls to open line shows and other aspects of the strategy.

Essentially, the three posts boil down to this:

  • The government party times its media activity to coincide with the polling periods of its own pollster.  Four times a year, the provincial government’s communications office pour out news about new projects, road paving and government spending.  “Playing the Numbers
  • All newsrooms are not equal. News media coverage plays a key role in selling the party in power to voters.  The provincial communications strategy favours news media that will offer the best chance of getting their messages out as often as possible and with the least amount of filtering.   “The media and the message
  • Government uses public opinion polls to help shape public opinion, not measure it.   The government party floods radio call-in shows with partisan supporters, including cabinet ministers, during polling periods to generate positive coverage during polling months.  The polling results then become part of the effort to suppress dissent:  the government is right because it is popular and popular because it is right.  The polls say so. “The perils of polling

August is one of the months in which the government’s pollster is in the field.  Not surprisingly, the current provincial governing party has been heavily pushing its happy-face news releases.

Also unsurprisingly, when asked about it, the leader of the governing party dismisses the idea the storm of news releases and spending announcements is about anything but informing the people of the province about government initiatives.

She promises the whole thing will stop at the end of August She doesn’t mention that the government’s pollster has stopped or will shortly stop gathering data so she and her political friends are done with poll goosing …for now.

- srbp -