04 November 2008

Discouraging democracy with attack ads

An Angus Reid survey before the October 14 federal election revealed that 11 per cent of Canadians had been dissuaded from voting as a result of the Conservative TV ads targeting Stephane Dion. Not from voting Liberal, but from voting at all. Comments on the ads included words such as "disgust," "lies," "unethical" and "unCanadian." Long-term pollster Andrew Grenville insists the attack ads were instrumental in producing the lowest voting turnout in history, saying they are "poisoning the well" of the Canadian political system.

If the 11 per cent had voted, the turnout would have been 69 per cent rather than 58 per cent, very close to the 72 per cent of the 1993 election when vicious attack ads made their debut into Canadian politics.

So will political parties take the high road in support of greater democratic participation and stop using attack ads? Not a chance. Why? Because they work. The survey indicated that 10 per cent of Liberal voters switched to Conservative as a result of the ads. Political parties are in the game to win. They are concerned about power, not democracy. Encouraging more people to vote at the possible cost of losing an election is not on the table.

The only way the standard of campaigning could be raised is if all parties agreed to drop the attack ads. That way the playing field would remain level. The parties wouldn't lose and democracy would win. And the chances of that? As one of the Angus Reid pollsters said, regarding the coming Liberal leadership convention, "[The Conservatives] are probably preparing their attack ads right now."

No comments:

Post a Comment