Lost in the supermarket

by Aaron Wherry

Susan Delacourt reviews Political Marketing in Canada, which includes an interview with Conservative strategist Patrick Muttart.

“Close campaigns are decided by the least informed, least engaged voters,” Muttart told Lees-Marshment. “These voters do not go looking for political news and information. This necessitates brutally simple communication with clear choices that hits the voter whether they like it or not. Journalists and editorialists often complain about the simplicity of political communication, but marketers must respond to the reality that undecided voters are often not as informed or interested as the political and media class are.”

Political purists may clutch at their pearls when they hear that candour from Muttart, but realists have always known that modern campaigns are not fought in the intellectual salons. The contributors to this book, who would all be entirely at home in those salons, have actually done us a service in putting an academic frame around realpolitik. Collectively, they have charted that trajectory of politics out of academia into the marketplace, and then bounced it back into the ivory tower for rigorous, researched analysis.

The Obama campaign’s machine for creating and testing its advertising—as explained in this piece by Sasha Issenberg—seems to represent the latest frontier in political marketing.




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Lost in the supermarket

  1. “Close campaigns are decided by the least informed, least engaged voters ….. ”

    WSJ ~ Why Ignorance Is Democracy’s Bliss:

    “The Iowa caucuses marked the official beginning of the presidential election cycle. For the next 10 months or so, the American public will endure polls, pundits, canned stump speeches and negative ads—the media circus that passes for 21st-century democracy. Despite this flood of coverage, one troubling feature of our elections will go largely unmentioned: The typical American voter is uninformed about political basics ….

    This isn’t a recent phenomenon. In 1964, at the height of the Cold War, only 38% of Americans knew that the Soviet Union wasn’t part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ….

    Why are democracies so vibrant even when composed of uninformed citizens? According to a new study led by the ecologist Iain Couzin at Princeton, this collective ignorance is an essential feature of democratic governments, not a bug. His research suggests that voters with weak political preferences help to prevent clusters of extremists from dominating the political process. Their apathy keeps us safe.”

    • Interesting. So, when all those people tell you that the polarizing divisiveness in the States has an upside, because people are becoming engaged in the political process, you can tell them that’s a bug too, and not a feature.

  2. It’s why democracies are always temporary.

  3. Let’s not mince words, that would be propaganda, no?

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