Debating worms

The “worm” is good for politics because it enables us to see how ‘real’ people respond as politicians make their pitch for votes.

The core concept is that a device allows a group of people to record whether they like or dislike what they are seeing and hearing.

For unpretentious political strategists the concept is exciting. The immediate, relatively unfiltered, response to a candidate is the most important factor to their success. Sure, there’s many other factors at play in the mind of a voter. But their raw response is paramount.

For political pundits and academics, the tool is threatening. The most common description of the worm, or Reactor as the Roy Morgan research house calls it, is that it is “unscientific”.

The only thing unscientific are criticisms.

The worm is effectively measuring the roar or murmur of approval or dissent of each individual in an otherwise passive crowd.  That’s an unfiltered, unexpurgated, direct sense of whether a politician resonates or not with each person.

There’s nothing ‘unscientific’ about that. In fact, it’s a near perfect measurement of what it measures.

So why are pundits and academics against the worm? I think it is because it gets them too close to the grubby reality of voting.

They fear it makes a mockery of their subject area by reducing it to a pure reactive emotion. Which is precisely what politics is, although the emotions and drivers at work are very sophisticated.

They fear the worm makes it easier for others to understand the field of political science. Which might do away with the need for their paid explanations of its mysteries.

In criticising the worm, the chattering experts reveal their distrust of the public. They don’t believe that an ordinary person could watch the debate and give a reasonable assessment of debating performance. They think the public already puts too little thought into their political opinion, and the worm encourages it.

I think the worm welcomes us to the real political world – where the motives behind voting are messier, less pure, more honest, more accurate, and more complicated than most experts can handle. That’s why most hate it, and I love it.

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