Voter bias

Election campaigns expose the bias in voters. In possibly no other campaign like this current New Zealand one (2014) have I seen people so transparently analyse issues and events to prove their existing political bias.

No matter what the issue, acquaintances and those in my networks, express opinions clearly based on who they want to win. Outside of the campaign they’ve expressed more nuanced views on the same issues. Inside the campaign period they throw aside pretense of objectivity.

It’s been a reminder for me of how very much campaigns are NOT about the already decideds. The opinions of these people generally just firm up. It’s all part of that well-known psychological factors, confirmation and reinforcement bias.

Rarely have I ever witnessed such feverish joy in acquaintances claiming that “the public don’t care about [issue of the day].” This from the political class and elite usually derisive of the lack of interest ordinary people show in politics or issues that activate the beltway. Suddenly public apathy becomes a convenient measuring stick to deride the concerns of who-ever you oppose. Maybe they should remember that next time they’re riding a hobby horse no one is backing.

One of the principles of my public relations career is that people filter information based on pre-existing beliefs. We each interpret events according to our bias. To convince people of something new you either have to package information so it connects to those beliefs, or you have to decidedly confound that belief.

This election has reminded me of the enormity of that task when prejudices are entrenched by association with a particular group or tribe.

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