Susan Delacourt puts the robocall scandal into wider perspective. It has everything to do with "undecided" voters. The trouble is, Delacourt writes, "undecided" has become a synonym --an inaccurate synonym -- for "uninterested:"
In a 1971 interview with the Canadian Press, pollster Martin Goldfarb said that his art -- still new to this country then -- was useful only for appealing to the 10 per cent of the electorate who had the power to move the fortunes of the parties either way.
“I think our research could be enough in a close election to win or lose. If it’s tight, we make that much difference,” said Goldfarb, who went on to become the Liberals’ official party pollster for the next two decades.
Nowadays, the political dynamics are far more volatile. The people who describe themselves as undecided, all the way up to voting day, has hovered as high as 30 or even 40 per cent during many of our recent elections. If [Harper adviser Patrick] Muttart is correct, these people may be not so much undecided as simply uninterested -- making it all the more difficult to motivate them toward the ballot box.
And of course, the corollary is that it’s all the easier to keep them away from the voting booths, too. The slightest inconvenience -- a changed polling location -- may be enough to suppress the vote.
It does not take a great deal of effort to convince these folks not to vote -- and modern technology leverages even that small effort. But there is more to it than that. Delacourt writes that choosing one's leaders has become like shopping. And modern marketers know that self-induced simpletons prefer simple messages:
Voting has become more like shopping in modern Canada with each decade since the Second World War. And robo-calls are the hard sell in a political marketplace where it’s difficult to get people buying anything -- or even to enter the store, to continue the metaphor.
The Conservatives, writes Delacourt, are the people who best understand -- and who best appeal to -- the uninterested. Other parties aren't far behind. That does not bode well for the future. If choosing a prime minister hinges on using the same techniques one uses to choose a breakfast cereal, the choice will be between Captain Crunch and Tony the Tiger.