The Dim-Post

August 28, 2014

Debates don’t change anything unless they do

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 3:23 pm

Leaders’ debate tonight! Reading through some of the political science about debates over lunchtime and the general consensus seems to be that debates don’t really change voters’ minds unless one of the debaters dramatically under-performs or over-performs.  But all other things being equal, viewers generally think the politician they liked going into the debate ‘won’, and the greatest impact of most debates is to persuade viewers towards the policies and viewpoints of the politician they’re already predisposed to like. 

But its possible that either candidate tonight could dazzle us, or disgrace themselves. Key is likely to be the usual chilled out entertainer who sees everything in All-Blacks analogies and played golf with Barack Obama, but he’s very crafty and quick-witted when he wants to be: he ran rings around Phil Goff in 2011. On the other hand, his judgement over the last couple weeks hasn’t been great. 

And then there’s Cunliffe. I was one of those idiots who thought he’d make a better Labour leader than David Shearer, because Cunliffe could ‘take the fight’ to Key, and I had events like tonight’s debate in mind. So this would be a good time for Cunliffe to deliver on what now seems like his very distant promise. Sadly I think he’s just as likely to say something inane and narcissistic and further repel voters. I hope he doesn’t do that. 

I also hope the pundits and commentators lined up to comment on the debate have more substantive critiques to make than, ‘He looked masterful,’ or ‘He seemed nervous.’ 

In terms of strategy, I think Cunliffe will attempt to speak to older voters who are deserting his party for New Zealand First. Key will speak to current National voters and frighten them into turning out and voting ‘Unless you want David Cunliffe, Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom running the country.’  


  1. You seriously think Shearer would have made a better leader than Cunliffe? Shearer would have brought a couple of dead fish to the debates. Cunliffe is streets ahead before he begins.

    Comment by Ross — August 28, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

  2. When Churchill uttered his famous line about democracy being the worst system ‘except for all the alternatives’, he had never seen a TVNZ show with Mike Hosking. If there’s a fucking panel I’ll vote for a military coup.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 28, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

  3. Mike Hoskins chairing such and important debate says it all about the state of politics and the media in NZ.
    It is an outrage actually.
    But then Ms Collins is still a minister. wtf

    Comment by Nanook Polar — August 28, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

  4. Interesting this comment from Willie jackson in 2013 when Claudette Hauiti moved into parliament ( for a very short time)

    “I was the presenter and Claudette was my executive producer.[TVNZ show Eye to Eye] Our show was about a Maori perspective on current affairs and for six years we brought politicians and movers and groovers in and debated the issues of the week.Claudette always wanted me to make people accountable for their actions and we developed a “take no prisoners approach” with our guests and encouraged them to express their views. This sometimes led to some of the most robust debates ever seen on TV and we even had to stop taping the show on the odd occasion because our guests got so out of control.”

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — August 28, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

  5. DC will be fine if he keeps his comments concise and approaches the debate like an address to business people. Once his head starts wagging you’ll know he’s off the track and doing what *he* thinks is appealing.


    Comment by JC — August 28, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

  6. Is it animal abuse to make my dog watch this with me?

    Comment by MeToo — August 28, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

  7. Key was visibly sweating, fearful and rattled there for a while. Cunliffe took that pretty clearly, but Key finished well. Putting his hand in his pocket for the second half seemed to steady Key for some reason??? Cunliffe will be stoked with that.

    Comment by k.jones — August 28, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

  8. First impression is DC dominated the debate but lost the audience. IMO he tried to stop Key from developing his arguments and succeeded.. but at a cost of likeability.


    Comment by JC — August 28, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

  9. They both came across as arseholes. Oh well….same old

    Comment by Grant — August 28, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

  10. Rootn Tootn Hooton, in a uncharacteristic fit of graciousness, gives it to Cunliffe.

    Comment by k.jones — August 28, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

  11. The last time I can think of that a debate really had a noticeable effect on the subsequent election was Peter Dunne’s “common sense” flash of lightning moment in the 2002 election.

    I think the literature is broadly correct, though, especially when talking about major parties. If a third party gains access to a debate format that has historically been limited to two parties (e.g, the Lib Dems in the UK), that is often helpful to them. But for people like Cunliffe and Key, bar a total meltdown – which is incredibly unlikely with an even partly-competent campaign staff – it’s really just an exercise in going through the motions.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — August 28, 2014 @ 8:32 pm

  12. As I thought from the outset, the right leaning Hosking would allow DC to dominate the debate and condemn himself in the eyes of the watching public with verbal blah which didn’t go down well. A 61:39 result indicates an unhelpful attempt for PM.


    Comment by JC — August 28, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

  13. Or 3-1 on the Herald Pundits Jeezy Creezy to Cunliffe…and they didn’t even have to pay 30,000 time 75cents

    Comment by sheesh — August 28, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

  14. If a third party gains access to a debate format that has historically been limited to two parties…

    I rather enjoyed the Green’s livestream in the ad breaks. It was somewhat hampered (or improved, IMO) by my not having an actual TV, so I never watched the main debate at all, but it seemed to work really well (the downside being, if you weren’t following news of the Green party, you probably never knew about it).

    Comment by Flynn — August 28, 2014 @ 9:35 pm

  15. And ZB listeners give it to Cunliffe…
    I guess you just pick the poll result that confirms what you want to hear JC.

    Comment by MeToo — August 28, 2014 @ 10:03 pm

  16. Only 3 things wrong with the text poll:

    1. It costs (real voting doesn’t).

    2. It allows multiples (real voting doesn’t)

    3. Perhaps the stupidest thing of all – they invite text-votes from the start of the debate, so they can announce the result on the programme. It has nothing to do with what actually happened: either candidate could have shat on the stage halfway through, and got the same vote.

    So, only psychic partisans have been measured, and nobody with a brain takes any notice. (I know you know all this, but tedious trolls pretend they don’t, so it has to be said).

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 28, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

  17. @Flynn: Yeah, I remember Dennis Kucinich doing something similar during the Democratic primary debates in 2008

    Comment by kalvarnsen — August 28, 2014 @ 11:48 pm

  18. @sammy 2.0 – Amen to that!

    I damn well missed the debate on account of my sister (who lives in a provincial city) buying some furniture “in Auckland” that she asked me to pick up, with “Auckland” turning out to be Red beach and I live in Kingsland. However, it is clear from the tone of the comments across the blogsphere that Cunliffe had the better of Key. Whether or that actually sways any voters, only time will tell.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 29, 2014 @ 7:58 am

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