BRACE YOURSELVES, COMRADES, for some horrendous poll results. The next round of surveys from Colmar Brunton, Reid Research, DigiPoll, Ipsos andRoy Morgan will almost certainly register a major slump in the Centre Left’s support and a concomitant rise in National’s numbers – quite possibly to 55 percent-plus. Labour and the Greens will both take nasty hits and the Internet-Mana Party (IMP) will be very lucky to make it above 1 percent. Apart from John Key, the only other person likely to be smiling is Winston Peters. The polls will be bad because the framing of Kim Dotcom’s latest intervention in New Zealand politics has been so near-universally and overwhelmingly negative. From the Right (and Sue Bradford) has come the steady drumbeat that Hone Harawira and the Mana Party have done a “dirty deal” with Kim Dotcom and, in the process, “sold out their principles” for cash.
There’s an assumption out there amongst political activists that the way the media ‘frames’ things is crucial and has huge influence on the electorate, but I’m really starting to doubt that. I’ve mentioned it before: the Herald’s framing of the ACT Party this year has been unrelentingly positive – here’s John Armstrong’s column published yesterday after the news of Banks’ conviction broke – and that’s delivered zero gains to ACT in the polls. When Shane Jones left Labour the media framing was that the defection would destroy the Labour Party, but Jones’ departure had no discernible impact in the polls whatsoever.
The alternate theory is that the majority of voters react to stories based on the substance of the events, not the framing – and if the polls continue to show a massive decline for the left and huge public opprobrium for Internet/Mana then that’s how the public genuinely feels. It’s not unreasonable. Harawira is really, really unpopular with the majority of voters, and Dotcom is a very odd foreign national and convicted criminal. If they form a hybrid party with the express purpose of ‘changing the government’ then we shouldn’t be surprised to see moderate voters freaking out and switching their support away from left-wing parties who might go into coalition with Internet/Mana, towards the government that Internet/Mana oppose. Trotter urges hope:
The Right’s principal movers and shakers know – even if their media minions do not – just how much difference a huge campaign war-chest can make to an election’s outcome. They caught a glimpse of what IMP is capable of in the razzmatazz of Harré’s introduction. They have also heard the rumours about whole floors of brilliant IT-geeks all beavering away; unheard of political applications; unprecedented polling capability. It’s why they’re hoping against hope that the beating currently being administered to the IMP during this period of “Phoney War” will be sufficiently savage to obviate any chance of its recovery. And a big part of that hope is that the more conservative elements of the Left will help them out by getting in a few kicks of their own.
For every voter that switches from Labour/Greens to National because of IMP, Internet/Mana will need to turn out three non-voters in order to make a net positive contribution to the left’s result.
One other point here: Dotcom has given his party over three million dollars. It’s a huge amount of money – the largest donation in New Zealand history, and it may or may not be a ‘game-changer’. It’s not like giving that money to Labour or National, because they’re already established parties. Lots of Dotcom’s money will be spent on setting his party up. And if there really are ‘whole floors of brilliant IT-geeks all beavering away; unheard of political applications; unprecedented polling capability’ then that’s going to chew through three million very quickly. A million dollars is not much in software development terms.