[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]
Dear Dr. Steve,
A new poll from Abacus looks good for the BC NDP. John Rustad’s B.C. Conservatives continue to surprise with a big jump, mostly at the expense of the BC United party led by Kevin Falcon. The Greens are down as well.
Do you put much faith in these early polls?
Polls are like awards. They are essentially meaningless and everybody pays attention to them. Polls are like the breeze that powers the annoying wind chimes on your neighbour’s porch. Dr. Steve loves them. He depends on them. Without polls, pundits would be forced to talk about issues. This new one from Abacus Data is pointless, ridiculous and fascinating.
A poll is also a bit like capitalism — those with the most faith in it are those who come out on top. This week the B.C. Conservatives must be confirmed poll-italists. Their rise in recent polling has been astonishing, as hard to fathom as the continued popularity of Kardashian-themed TV shows.
Party leader John Rustad is a vaccine and climate change skeptic whose first legislature question as party leader, about sexual orientation and gender identity, succeeded in drawing a sincere rebuke from Premier David Eby, who then got a standing ovation not only from his own backbenchers but also most from the Opposition BC United members. It was a bit like seeing Batman and the Joker holding hands in the Tunnel of Love.
Regardless, the B.C. Conservatives are riding high. It is entirely possible that Rustad’s party has tapped into a vein of unapologetic reaction in a portion of the B.C. electorate.
But the major numbers they are getting in this and other recent polls suggest something else might be at work: the Conservative Party of BC has a durable brand. The erstwhile BC Liberals had one too, but they traded it for a handful of magic beans. So far those beans are proving every bit as disappointing as the arrival of your long-awaited Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys. BC United poll numbers are indeed looking shrimpy, and certainly not at all like the happy illustrations with the little crowns and everything.
Falcon’s explanation for past dismal poll numbers has indeed been that voters just weren’t used to the BC United brand. But Abacus identified parties with their leaders in this poll — Kevin Falcon’s BC United, John Rustad’s Conservative Party of BC. That didn't help BC United’s numbers. So either the party itself is the problem, or the Falcon brand never recovered from the Ford cancellation.
If it is still a branding issue, however, B.C. would not be the only place where voters are stuck on labels. The same process seems to be playing out in the U.S.
Some recent polls have shown traitorous horror clown Donald Trump running ahead of President Joe Biden. There are a number of possible explanations for this. Ideally, you want to select the explanation that will not inspire you to step in front of a speeding locomotive.
The preferred theory would be that we are looking at brand recognition here — the brands in this case being not so much Trump and Biden as Republican and Democrat. The GOP has been around for almost 170 years, candidate Trump for less than 10. The usual between-elections dissatisfaction with the White House occupant means temporarily parking your vote with the other team — thus the Republican advantage.
The fact that vast numbers of American poll respondents do not seem to have noticed that the presumptive Republican nominee is a rancid hate pumpkin with an IQ to match is disturbing, for sure. But it’s legitimate to suggest that this Trump bump is a passing phenomenon that will evaporate once U.S. voters begin giving the 2024 election at least 20 per cent of the attention they typically devote to the National Football League.
Pierre Poilievre is polling very well right now, too. The federal Conservative leader is not presently carrying Trump-style baggage, and he faces a Liberal government that looks ripe for the taking. When a government has been around this long, voters tend to look at the opposition through beer goggles. It’s closing time and anybody starts to look good.
Like it or not, the next federal election is Poilievre’s to lose. Will he? Could the Conservative leader’s abrasive, sneering, crypto-loving, apple-munching antics manage to kill off a 19-point lead like an aquarium full of lifeless sea monkeys? Place your bets. Dr. Steve may not believe in off-year polls, but he believes in the power of Poilievre.
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