Opinion

Please Advise! Trumping Polls Can't Be This Simple

As sure as the pope is Catholic, Dr. Steve dishes hard-to-hear popularity lessons.

By Steve Burgess 27 Jul 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[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,

As the federal election approaches, polls are fluctuating -- the most recent seems to have Harper back in the lead. It has me wondering: what is the key to political popularity?

Signed,
Politically Puzzled

Dear PP,

I have researched your question and reached some conclusions. You're probably not going to like them.

First, consider Pope Francis. For many of us the man has been a revelation; he has recently spoken out against overconsumption and against tax breaks for the wealthy, while warning of the reality of climate change and the need for environmental protection. This month Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was invited to the Vatican as part of a conference on global climate.

Once upon a time this sort of meeting would have resulted in the mayor reluctantly renouncing his heresy about the Earth revolving around the sun. Times have changed. Although Francis declined to condemn NPA councillors to Purgatory, you'd still have to think this was quite a political coup for the Vancouver mayor.

But not so fast. This pope may not have the kind of political coattails you'd expect. A new Gallup poll shows Francis's popularity is dropping in the U.S. It appears his message of economic justice and environmental stewardship is not going over well everywhere.

Trumped up primaries

Meanwhile the leading contender for the U.S. Republican presidential nomination continues to be Donald Trump. This suggests Pope Francis could turn those U.S. poll numbers around by saying, "Sure, Jesus Christ died on the cross. But I prefer Messiahs who didn't get captured."

Trump is a Mexican-hating, POW-insulting birther. And a political star. He's the Rosa Parks of racist clowns. Trump's candidacy is either a brilliant prank, the demonstration of a profound political truth, or some unholy combination. Like Rob Ford with a slicker TV show, Trump exists in a political bizarro world where awfulness scores points. But is it really a bizarro world when a segment of the populace cheers a prolonged spectacle of id-vomit? Or is it just Monday?

Now consider the Canadian federal scene. A poll conducted for Postmedia last week has the Conservatives bouncing back up to 38 per cent, coincidentally after the scattering of $3 billion worth of child care benefits. Until recently Harper's popularity had been on a steady slide. But who says money can't buy you love? I know if I had a few brats I'd be in Vegas right now, raising a toast to my good buddy Steve.

Many voters seem to feel the same. Perhaps citizens who purported to be upset over the Mike Duffy scandal weren't really angry about all that lavish Senate expense spending after all -- they were just envious. Given their own little sliver of the pie, all was forgiven.

Populism and you

To review, then: telling unpleasant truths about the effects of human behaviour = political poison. Spewing toxic bilge under the pretence of bold truth-telling = political celebrity. Outrageous opinions = big ratings. Procreation = the royal road to refund riches.

That last one may reflect some personal bitterness. But you get the drift, PP. The body politic wants what it wants. And sometimes the pork-rind-munching, binge-drinking body politic is a heart attack waiting to happen. If moms had to run for re-election, no child would have to eat broccoli ever again.

Meanwhile, some advice for Pope Francis -- better distance yourself from our bike-lane loving mayor, Frank. That hippie shit doesn't test well.  [Tyee]

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